Coach hopes Etzebeth will learn from ban
Eben Etzebeth will hopefully learn from the experience of having been handed a two-week ban and come back a stronger player, South Africa assistant coach John McFarland said in Auckland on Tuesday.
Lock Etzabeth received the punishment after being found guilty of striking an opponent following a headbutt aimed at Australia lock Nathan Sharpe during the two teams’ Rugby Championship clash in Perth last weekend.
The suspension means that Etzabeth will miss South Africa’s test against New Zealand in Dunedin on Saturday.
“Anything that comes in front of a disciplinary hearing is not something that you ideally want. Hopefully he will learn some lessons from this and take them forward for the future,” McFarland told a news conference.
“Eben is a superb player. His start at test level has been massive and he has had a great impact for a 20-year-old. He is going to be world class in the future.
“I think Eben has been playing really well but it gives another guy a chance. You expect with Super Rugby and the high injury rates that you are going to lose people and you are going to have to replace them,” he added.
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McFarland refused to be drawn on whether a replacement player would be called up to the squad, saying that was a matter for the selectors although Bulls’ lock Flip van der Merwe, already in the squad, is expected to start in Etzebeth’s place.
McFarland, the Boks’ defensive coach, said that he had been relatively pleased with South Africa’s defence during the 26-19 loss to Australia but that an improvement would have to be made in order to try and stop the world champion All Blacks.
“We did a lot of good things (against Australia). The two errors that we made cost us tries. One was a missed tackle and the second one was just a lack of numbers on the short side. We actually controlled most of that game defensively. They did not have a lot of line breaks and they didn’t get what they wanted out of the game.
“So even though we didn’t win the game there was a lot of positives to be taken from that. But we understand that we have to make a step-up this weekend,” he added.
Saturday’s test will be played at the Forsyth Barr Stadium, which has a roof, something that will please fans and players alike after an Arctic front struck Dunedin early on Tuesday.
McFarland said that the roof would benefit both teams.
“It will make it like a Highveld game, like a South African game. It will make it very quick. I was there in April with the Bulls and it was a very quick game then. It is a superb stadium to play in, a lot of noise and it great for test rugby.
South Africa’s players could be forgiven for being a bit down in the dumps after a draw with Argentina and the Australia loss but McFarland insisted that the team was still upbeat and were not intimidated by having to play the All Blacks.
“It is a fresh team and a fresh environment. There is a lot of youth and vigour in the team. Most of the guys have been coming here for Super Rugby so it is not like going to Argentina, which was something totally new. There is a lot of confidence in the team and we are looking forward to the weekend.”