Andries’ mentorship of Eben has been massive
Prodigious Stormers second row Eben Etzebeth could become a world-class No.5 lock, if he is granted time to grow into the role.
This is the view of Stormers forwards coach Matthew Proudfoot, who hailed Etzebeth after the 21-year-old’s standout performance in his team's 20-15 victory over the Reds at the weekend.
Etzebeth, in the adopted No.5 jersey after first-choice Andries Bekker joined the Stormers’ lengthy casualty list with a back injury, called the line-outs with distinctions while maintaining his physical play across the park.
With Etzebeth calling the shots, the Stormers won all eight of their line-outs and managed three steals on the Reds’ throw.
The Cape team’s dominance in the set-piece came as a surprise as Etzebeth, a natural enforcer lock, and Gerbrandt Grobler, in his first Super Rugby start, were expect to struggle against the Wallaby captain James Horwill-led Reds line-out.
Etzebeth emerged as one of the stars of the match and hinted at a bright future in the No.5 jersey, where he could become the long-term successor of Springbok legend Victor Matfield at international level.
Proudfoot said he was ‘proud’ of Etzebeth’s effort and felt he showed potential to make a successful long-term transition.
“Eben took to the role very well,” Proudfoot said at a media gathering on Tuesday.
“How he changed it up was very good, he went from four-man to five-man to full line-outs, so to have that level of detail early on was good. It’s a role that he will grow and develop into.”
Proudfoot highlighted Japan-bound Bekker and his mentorship of Etzebeth as key to the 2012 South African Young Player of the Year’s evolution.
“Every generation stands on the shoulders of the generation before and Andries’ mentorship of Eben has been massive,” said Proudfoot.
“In the play-off race last year we tried to push Eben into the five role and he wasn’t very comfortable there and not a year later he started a game there successfully, so that mentorship is crucial and Andries has been massive there.
“You as a coach can give structure and leadership and make sure the cogs are working but advice from a senior hand is vital and I’m grateful Andries has been there.”
Proudfoot added that it would be imperative that a potential permanent switch be well managed to ensure Etzebeth grew into the role naturally.
“Eben is a player who will astound us in the future. We just need to allow him to develop and not force him into that role,” said Proudfoot.