Eben Etzebeth relishes physical confrontation. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyers
PRETORIA - If it is a physical and bruising battle that the Springboks will be hoping to win in their opening Test against France at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, then there is no better man to lead their charge than abrasive lock Eben Etzebeth.

The 25-year-old Etzebeth is known not to shy away from confrontation and has openly expressed his excitement in getting stuck into the French, who are also relishing the prospect of the toe-to-toe war with the Springboks.

And the Boks will need to show that brutality and ruthlessness in the collision after having been outsmarted, outplayed and out-muscled for the better part of last year.

But for the senior national team to win the physical battle they will need more than just Etzebeth to come with a fighting mentality and it will take the effort from the entire pack of forwards to give a sting to the Springboks punch.

“Saturday is going to be a physical encounter. From one to eight we’re really looking forward to it and for me especially, we’re going to climb into their forwards and we all are very excited,” Etzebeth said.

“We are looking at them as a pack. They are a physical pack and we have to front up in that regard and we are not singling out anybody but looking at them as a whole.”

While Etzebeth would have spent the better part of this week having to contain the anger and frustration from within and waiting for Saturday to unleash it, he fully appreciates the stigma that comes with men like him, who enjoy operating in the dark and scarcely threaded areas of the game.

Etzebeth is fearless in the confrontation - from his bone crushing tackles, to the look of death on his face when hurtling towards a ruck. It comes as no surprise that Etzebeth and his ilk have been labelled as the bad boys of the modern game, even though they play on the edge of the rules but never break them in the manner in which they break opposition bodies.

Although Etzebeth has picked up a reputation of being a dirty player over the years with his overzealous and his intimidating frame, the 54 Test veteran says discipline will be key for the Springboks in their season opener.

In fact, Etzebeth was quick to cite his near perfect disciplinary record in the six years his being playing international and Super Rugby and rubbished claims that he is a dirty player by calling it a “perception”.

“That’s just a perception, and I suppose people can believe what they want. I know what I can bring to the team, and I know that in over 100 games for the Stormers and Boks, I’ve only conceded two yellow cards.”

“Discipline is going to be crucial this Saturday. You don’t want to give away points or cards in a game like this, as the opposition has what it takes to punish you on the scoreboard,” said Etzebeth.

The call for discipline by Etzebeth has seemingly come with the maturity of the Stormers lock now being one of the senior players in the side but also with the leadership responsibilities that his broad and masculine shoulders have to now carry.

Etzebeth has already captained the Stormers twice during this year’s Super Rugby campaign and has become an integral member of the Springboks leadership group.

“I’ve enjoyed being a leader in this team. I captained the Stormers in two games this season and it was a great experience. We’ve spent some time building this new culture at the Boks, and I’m excited about the season to come.”

Come Saturday the French should not be fooled by the measured talk of the giant lock because that fearless and angry beast from within will be unleashed along with the other seven forwards who are eager to forge a new journey for the once mighty and feared Springboks.

“I want to make an impact but at the same time I’m confident that the seven forwards around me can also do a job,” Etzebeth said.

Pretoria News

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter