EBEN’S BID TO ‘SMASH’ WALLABIES
Toughest test yet for Boks but scrum is ferocious and confidence is up
SPRINGBOK lock Eben Etzebeth, has done well to contain his inner demons since being elevated to the Springbok captaincy but he has set free his teammates to go out and “smash” the Wallabies “out of the park” in the Rugby Championship encounter at the nib Stadium in Perth today.
Often the fiery character in the Springbok pack and the one player almost certain to get into some sort of confrontation, Etzebeth is calling on his team to have a no fear attitude especially in the first 20 minutes of the game if they are to gain an early ascendency.
Etzebeth, though, expects the Wallabies to come out also spitting fire in what many have already touted as the sternest test the Springboks are going to face so far this year.
“There is always talk in a rugby game about the first 20 minutes and guys coming out firing. We must just control that and we must also come out in the first 20 and try smash them out of the park. I know they will try do the same,” said Etzebeth in his captain’s press conference in Perth yesterday.
There is no doubt that the Wallabies will be far superior than the challenges of France and Argentina who the Springboks were able to beat convincingly and comfortably.
While the Springboks’ series win against a fatigued French side and the back-to-back wins over the Pumas in the start of the competition would have seen the men in Green and Gold make giant leaps from the woes of last year, the reality is that the Wallabies are a significant jump in intensity and as foes.
And with the Australians having shown their own growth and might in their narrow loss to the All Blacks in Dunedin recently, today’s Test stands as a major test of character and a measure of how far the Springboks have come in their resurgent ride.
Etzebeth is under no illusion of what awaits his men and a quick look at the world rankings where Australia are in third and the Springboks one spot behind them, in itself paints the picture of the South Africans still lagging behind and coming into the game as underdogs.
“If you look at the world rankings they are high up there so it should be our toughest test. But we have prepared well and are looking forward to this challenge.
“I think that was a pretty good performance and I think they were unlucky not to win that game; it was a close one and they really played well,” Etzebeth said of the Wallabies’ courageous performance in Dunedin.
As hyped up as the Wallabies will be going into this unpredictable encounter, the Springboks will be quietly confident of pulling off their first win in Perth in eight years as their five-match winning run is nothing to be scoffed about.
“If you win five in a row there is always a good mood in the camp, positivity and some confidence,: said Etzebeth.
The truth of the matter is that the Springboks have struck a winning formula primarily driven by their new team culture but also by sticking to a basic and effective plan.
It is in the simplicity with which the team are doing things that have seen them work extremely hard at exploiting the fundamentals of the game to their benefit, starting with dominant setpiece play, a lethal and accurate attack and a rock solid defence.
And this is where the Springboks will hurt the Wallabies who have had their frailties in the scrum and on defence horribly exposed by the All Blacks in their first two Tests of the competition.
While the Wallabies scrum has been falling apart, it is the one area where the Springboks have experienced their biggest growth and with Tendai Mtawarira, Malcolm Marx and Coenie Oosthuizen looking in devastating for m, the scrum could be the area where the Springboks begin to dismantle their opponents.
“I won’t sit here and identify any weak points. I think our scrum has been good in the past two games against Argentina so that is something we worked on to try and improve every week,” said Etzebeth.
Ultimately, it will all probably come down to which team smashes the other the hardest but for the Springboks theirs will not just be a 20-minute mission; they will need to carry that fearless and bloodthirsty attitude throughout the 80 minutes if they are to have a chance at victory and maintain their unbeaten run in the competition.