Etzebeth, Boks desperate for win against Ireland

Eben Etzebeth. | BackpagePix

Eben Etzebeth. | BackpagePix

Published Jul 3, 2024


Leighton Koopman

The Springbok hourglass is not nearly close to running out for hardman Eben Etzebeth, but the lock is cherishing every Test he plays a little bit more because it’s one closer to eventually calling time.

As a more senior statesman now, with 120 caps behind his name, the 32-year-old feels the pressure is also getting a bit heavier because he understands more what it means to play for South Africa, but judging from his workhorse performances week in and out, one wouldn’t say that he feels any pressure.

On Saturday, in the first Test against Ireland at Loftus Versfeld (5.05pm start) Etzebeth will again play a crucial role as the Boks bid for a first win over the Irish since 2016.

The Cape Town-born enforcer will also take one step closer to becoming the most-capped Springbok of all time as he gets to 121, with only former winger Bryan Habana (124) and former lock Victor Matfield (127) ahead of him. He should eclipse Habana this year, and depending on coach Rassie Erasmus’ plans, the Matfield record could also become Etzebeth’s this season already.

It’s something he will shift from his mind because priority number one would be to grab a win in the first home Test since winning the World Cup.

“The last few games (against them) did not go our way, but we also haven’t played them in South Africa for the last eight years,” Etzebeth said on the Irish challenge.

“We certainly go out to win every game we play, and it doesn’t matter if it’s against the Griffons or a big Test match or the World Cup final. When you put on the Springbok jersey, you always want to get a Test victory, it goes down in history and you want to be part of the better side of history.

“Ireland will also pick their best team. We definitely can’t expect the same from them, they have a DNA like us, and that 80% will stay the same. But there is always room for change.”

Etzebeth recently had to bear the brunt of Irish supporters and their media after an interview with The Rugby Pod’s Jim Hamilton when he said he couldn’t understand why some of the Irish guys he shook hands with after the World Cup group match were so confident when they told him ‘see you in the final’ even though they still had to play New Zealand in the knockouts.

“The Irish media definitely targeted me after that incident. But I said what I said. I gave a rough estimate of the amount of guys who said it, it was definitely not less than six or more than 20. But we wouldn’t say something like that after a game if there was still so much rugby to be played. Maybe it was their way of saying we are a good side and we might make it all the way.

“But people definitely took (my words) that wrong and out of context.”

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