EBEN’S BID TO ‘SMASH’ WAL­LA­BIES

Tough­est test yet for Boks but scrum is fe­ro­cious and con­fi­dence is up

Saturday Star - - SPORT - VATA NGOB­ENI

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.

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