Etzebeth to miss All Blacks clash
Eben Etzebeth will miss South Africa’s Rugby Championship clash with New Zealand after the big lock was found guilty of foul play by a Sanzar judicial hearing on Monday and banned for two weeks.
Etzebeth was found guilty of “contravening Law 10.4 (a) Punching or Striking after he was cited during the match at the weekend between Australia and South Africa in The Rugby Championship.
Etzebeth had appeared to aim a headbutt at Australia’s Nathan Sharpe in the 25th minute of the two teams’ Rugby Championship clash in Perth last Saturday.
Etzebeth has been one of the most consistent performers since Heyneke Meyer took over as Springbok coach and his absence will leave a huge hole in the South Africa team which will play the All Blacks in Dunedin on Saturday.
Meyer, speaking just hours before the result of Etzebeth’s hearing was made known, spoke of what the potential loss of the lock would mean for the team.
“It will be a big loss. I have a lot of respect for Flip (Van der Merwe) but I really believe that Eben, as a 20-year-old, is playing superb rugby. He was awesome last weekend and he will be one of the greats going forward,” Meyer told a news conference in Auckland.
“It will be a huge setback because we have some sort of continuity in our tight five now and he has done well with Juandre (Kruger). I believe that Eben has improved in every single test he has played and, even though he is a youngster, he is a huge physical presence,” he added.
Nigel Hampton QC, who heard the judicial hearing, did not mince his words when describing why he had administered his punishment.
“I was satisfied that this was not an attempt just to push the opposing player away by using his head without contact being made. The player brought his forehead forward and downward with a degree of speed and force into the nose area of the opposing player making contact with that player. This was a deliberate act done as a part of an episode of escalating “tit for tat” pushing and shoving between the two players. As to sanction, intentional striking with the head into the face of another is not to be countenanced under any circumstances,” said Hampton in a statement.
Lock Bakkies Botha is expected to be called up to the squad as a replacement.