‘Eben’ out the tem­per

Dis­ci­pline will be key, says the burly lock, if Boks are to beat French

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - VATA NGOBENI

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 the abra­sive lock Eben Etze­beth.

The 25-yearold 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 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. TRI­UMPHANT: Auck­land Blues play­ers cel­e­brate af­ter their vic­tory against the Bri­tish and Irish Lions at Eden Park in Auck­land, New Zealand, yes­ter­day.

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