Etzebeth citing a blow for Boks
The citing of lock Eben Etzebeth for allegedly making contact with Scotland flyhalf Greig Laidlaw could be a mortal blow to the Springbok chances of beating England in what coach Heyneke Meyer considers the defining match of the season at Twickenham on Saturday.
Etzebeth will appear in front of a disciplinary committee convened by the Six Nations committee that oversees the autumn international season in the northern hemisphere in London on Tuesday.
The big Bok and Stormers lock was cited by independent citing commissioner Alan Mansel of England after his team’s 21-10 win over Scotland in Edinburgh this past weekend.
London-based solicitor Owen Eastwood will defend Etzebeth, but if he is not successful, and Etzebeth is found guilty, the Boks are going to be set back in their quest to gain the physical ascendancy that is so important against England.
The news of Etzebeth’s citing was announced by the Six Nations media service late on Monday while the Boks were training under leaden skies at the Latymer School at White City.
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer said the matter was sub judice and he therefore couldn’t comment, but he had been informed of the potential for a citing and plans had already been made for Etzebeth’s defence even before the announcement was made.
The crime Etzebeth is accused of is essentially eye-gouging, which carries the potential for a lengthy ban, so a guilty verdict would certainly rule him out of the Twickenham test.
Should such an eventuality arise, Flip van der Merwe will move to lock in the starting team, with Franco van der Merwe coming in on the bench.
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But it would be far from an ideal situation for the Boks as Etzebeth has become central to their driving play at forward, his physicality marks him as the team’s enforcer, and he is also a crucial part of the lineout plans.
He arrived on this tour as the most successful Bok lineout contester this year.
Adding to the Boks' woes on Monday was the condition of the other members of the tight five, with only hooker Andries Strauss and the other lock, Juandre Kruger, able to take a full part in training.
Jannie du Plessis, although given a clean bill of health by team doctor Craig Roberts, sat out the practice, and Gurthro Steenkamp joined him on the sidelines after being part of the initial stages.
CJ van der Linde pulled up during the session with what looked a potentially serious calf injury and he had to be treated on the side of the field. He did not continue with the practice and looks doubtful for Twickenham.
Fortunately wing Lwazi Mvovo saw out the session after pulling up in obvious discomfort early in the practice.
Mvovo had strapping put on his leg after going down, and Tuesday will tell us more about his readiness to play against England.
He has become an important player because JP Pietersen has a groin injury and is considered a doubtful starter for Twickenham.
A decision will be made on Pietersen later this week. Mvovo did start for the Boks when they were last in London in 2010, so it would not be a new experience for him was he required to play.
According to the way the Boks trained on Monday, it looks likely that there will be only one change for the England game, with Mvovo coming in for Pietersen if the latter is ruled out.
Of course if Etzebeth is also prevented from playing it will mean two changes, with the one at forward being potentially much more significant given where the England strength lies and how they go about trying to win rugby matches.