Rynhardt Elstadt will need to find his feet quickly if WP are to outmuscle the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Duane Vermeulen and Pieter Louw were regulars in the Stormers’ matchday squad, but the 20-year-old Elstadt is yet to play in a senior competition. He’s featured at age group level for both WP and South Africa, and represented the Stormers in a few warm-up matches prior to the Super 14, but Saturday marks his senior debut.
WP assistant coach Matt Proudfoot told keo.co.za that Elstadt is bound to make a few mistakes, but when it comes to physicality and intensity, he’ll need to match the likes of Juan Smith.
‘He’s up against one of the best Springbok flankers of all time, so he’ll have to show everybody what he’s about,’ said Proudfoot. ‘He went well against the Griffons, but with all due respect, they don’t have the same kind of players as Juan Smith.
‘The Cheetahs have one of the most experienced packs in the competition, and I for one am glad that we’re coming up against them in the first game. It’s a big challenge, but will show how far we are in terms of developing this team.
‘Rynhardt has a massive role to play this weekend, as do all the forwards. The emphasis in training this week has been on physicality, because that’s what the Cheetahs aim to do: strangle and suffocate. They won’t change much.’
The Stormers boasted the best back row in the Super 14, with Schalk Burger, Francois Louw and Vermeulen complementing each others strengths. The flankers’ elevation to the Boks has allowed Pieter Louw and Elstadt an extended opportunity at domestic level, and although the loose trio dynamic has changed, Proudfoot believes the combination will produce results.
‘Pieter may not be as physical a player as Schalk, but he can perform that linking role very well. Ryhnardt obviously doesn’t have Flo’s ball-stealing ability, but is still good on the deck. People also forget that Flo was one of our best ball-carriers in the Super 14, and so Rynhardt will be expected to take on that role.
‘I don’t believe in one designated fetcher, as all three will have a job to do when it comes to winning ball on the deck.’
Head coach Allister Coetzee told this website on Monday that he is pleased with the standard of WP’s scrumming and lineout work. Province scored four tries up front against the Griffons, a fact that bodes well against a powerful Cheetahs pack.
As the forwards’ mentor, Proudfoot believes they could have done better over an 80-minute period.
‘There’s a great work ethic in this side, but we’ve put a lot of pressure on the guys in training this week. We want to cut out the errors that cost us in the second half of that Griffons game,’ said Proudfoot.
‘Like I’ve said, the Cheetahs aren’t the Griffons, so we’ll have to take it up a notch this Saturday. It’s going to be tough, but I’m sure we’ll be ready.’
WP will announce their match 22 on Wednesday afternoon.
By Jon Cardinelli