Doubt over Etzebeth after head-butt

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Etzebeth_Wallabies REUTERS South Africa's Springboks' Eben Etzebeth (right) has been cited for a headbutt on Australia's Nathan Sharpe.

As if a 26-19 defeat to the Wallabies wasn’t enough to stomach, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will be worrying over whether star lock Eben Etzebeth will face the All Blacks next week.

Etzebeth produced an outstanding display at the Patersons Stadium on Saturday, but was cited after the match for an alleged head-butt on Wallaby lock Nathan Sharpe. The incident occurred in the 25th minute of the first half.

Governing body Sanzar announced in a statement after the match that “upon further review of the match footage, the citing commissioner deemed in his opinion the incident had met the red card threshold for foul play”. The citing was described as follows: “Etzebeth is alleged to have contravened Law 10.4 (a) punching or striking, when he made contact with Australian player Nathan Sharpe with his head.”

Sanzar judicial officer Mike Heron will consider the case in due course, but if the citing commissioner has already indicated that the incident had warranted a red card, then Etzebeth is likely to miss the All Black Test in Dunedin next Saturday.

Bok coach Meyer also has two injury concerns for the New Zealand showdown, as Bryan Habana (ankle) limped off the field and Jannie du Plessis (hamstring) had to be replaced in the second half.

Meyer felt that while the Springboks had played much better than against Argentina in Mendoza, he was disappointed by the second-half performance. The Boks led 13-3 after 26 minutes, but the Wallabies went in front through Scott Higginbotham’s try with 24 minutes left.

“To win away from home, you have to have a great gameplan. You have to stick to and execute the gameplan. I thought that in the first 60 minutes, we executed well.

“We put them under pressure. But there were two soft moments in the game that cost us. At this level, away from home, you can’t make those mistakes.

“But all credit to the Wallabies. They came back when it mattered, but we can’t have soft moments at this level and away from home. I thought that it was a huge improvement, but still not happy with the performance. We need to play better.”

The soft moments Meyer was referring to were a scrum penalty that the Boks had conceded in the build-up to Higginbotham’s try, and replacement wing Lwazi Mvovo’s failure to catch a kickoff, which gave the Wallabies a five-metre scrum.

“Test rugby is not about who plays the best, but who handles pressure the best. I thought the Wallabies were really under pressure in the first 60 minutes, and they handled it well. We were 13-3 up and had our chances, which we didn’t use, and they had two and that was the difference.”

“People ask what does experience bring to the team, and I think it is exactly that. Nathan Sharpe almost had more Test caps than our whole pack put together,” De Villiers said.

“The more you play Test rugby together, the quicker you learn from such mistakes and know how to handle it. I feel it was a massive improvement from the previous week.

“If you had to ask what we need to work on, I can’t really think of something that we were really, really poor at. We still need to improve with everything, and it is never nice to lose, but the guys certainly gave it their all out there.” – Weekend Argus



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