DURBAN – Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth knows he will be targeted by the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship match against the All Blacks in North Harbour on Saturday morning, but he says it is a myth that he is a yellow card waiting to happen.
The 25-year-old, 60-Test veteran has grown into the captaincy this year in the absence of injured Warren Whiteley, but he insists that the responsibility has not made him more wary of being combative.
“If anything, it has made me more competitive,” he said in his pre-match captain’s press conference on Friday.
“In modern rugby you can take the game to the opposition as physically as ever, but you always know that you can’t overstep the mark because you will get caught, and you don’t want your team penalised.
“I am not going to tone down anything about my approach to playing the All Blacks, or any other country for that matter,” he smiled.
“It’s funny… I have only had one yellow card in 60 Tests, so I have not been in the sin-bin that much.
“Also in Super Rugby, over 50 games, I have had just one yellow card, so what you see on the TV with me getting aggressive and me transgressing the laws of foul play are two different things.”
Etzebeth said that responsibility of leading the troops into battle had made him more competitive than ever, without him losing track of having to set the example regarding the laws governing rough play.
“You are even more competitive when you are captain, you actually want the team to do even better, you even want to win more, and the desire to be impose yourself is actually accentuated, if that is possible! You want to walk off the field as a victorious captain.”
The Boks are unbeaten in six Tests this year, but Etzebeth admitted the All Blacks would be by far their major hurdle.
“Earlier this week a New Zealand guy told me, ‘Forget about the Wallabies and the British and Irish Lions, the Springboks and the All Blacks is probably the biggest rivalry in rugby,’ and I think the same.
“We know they are our biggest competition, and hopefully they know we are their biggest – we know it’s going to be a massive clash,” Etzebeth concluded.
* Saturday’s Test starts at 9.35am SA time.