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Rugby | Springboks

Eben Etzebeth © Gallo Images

Boks face moment of truth

Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth has admitted that the Castle Lager Rugby Championship that begins with the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium clash with Argentina on Saturday is his team’s moment of truth.

The Boks did well to beat France 3-0 in their series in June, but on the eve of the start of the Championship, Etzebeth appeared unsure about what his team had got out of the clashes with the Six Nations team.

“It is difficult to judge yourself when you are playing against just one team,” said Etzebeth.

“The Championship consists of matches against several teams, so it is now that the real challenge starts. We were quite happy with what we managed to do in the June series, but we know that we now need to step up a level. There were areas we felt needed improving so hopefully we will be better in the Championship.”

Etzebeth took over as captain at the 11th hour after Warren Whiteley was a late withdrawal ahead of the final test against France in Johannesburg. He admits that this time it is quite different for him, as knowing that he is to be captain ahead of time and taking charge of training sessions has presented a new challenge to him.

“It is a little bit more intimidating. You have to take more responsibility, more control. Last time I didn’t know that I was going to be captain until the game was almost upon us. But now I have had to take a more controlling role at training sessions.”

Etzebeth said that the fact coach Allister Coetzee had made him part of a leadership group, which apart from the selected captain, Whiteley, also included Stormers skipper Siya Kolisi, experienced prop Beast Mtawarira and flyhalf Elton Jantjies, had helped. He described himself as a skipper who leads by example rather than through exhorting his teammates to raise their game through stirring speeches.

“I am not a captain that will speak the most but rather lead by actions. Fortunately I have Elton (the vice-captain) with me and he speaks a lot on the field. But while I will have guys like Siya, Beast and Elton there to support me, I will do the job myself.”

The lock said the two weeks building up to the game had been good for the team with the squad getting through a lot of hard work in the two weeks in Port Elizabeth.

“We know the Pumas will be tough. They are physical side and it will be a big battle between the forwards as they have an excellent tight five and good loosies, but we are prepared and we are looking forward to the challenge,” said Etzebeth.

It was still raining in Port Elizabeth on the eve of the game, as it has been intermittently since Wednesday night, but weather forecasters are predicting a dry test.


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