He’s a powerhouse … Former Springboks full of praise for ‘enforcer’ Eben Etzebeth

  None of the numerous Springboks who raised their hands during Sunday’s exciting victory over France in Paris was more crucial or appropriate than experienced lock forward Eben Etzebeth.

The 31-year-old was an integral part of numerous crucial plays that handed South Africa the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal victory and caused the predominantly French home crowd to boo and whistle at their new pantomime villain.


The most important part of his game-changing score, which came 13 minutes from the end, was that he lived up to former Springbok captain Victor Matfield’s assessment that Etzebeth was “probably the best player in the world”.

He and 2019 World Cup co-winner Francois Louw both agreed that “stalwart” Etzebeth is important to the Boks.

“I think all teams have an enforcer, someone that brings that physicality and that role has changed so much over the years,” he stated on Tuesday.

“Those athletes are evolving to be more dynamic, not only massive brutes but also excellent rugby players.

“He has developed his game over time. He’s a tough bloke, he came out charging when he first came onto the international scene.

He has done an outstanding job of controlling that aggression and channeling it toward a goal that is more beneficial for the team.

“His influence in the victory (against France) was immense.”

At the start of the game, with France ahead 7-0 and approaching the South African tryline, Etzebeth’s enormous right paw made a significant and contentious intervention.

Ben O’Keeffe, the referee, and the TMO team all agreed that he had somehow palmed the ball backwards, prompting the home crowd to boo and shout for a deliberate knock-on.

Moments later, the Sharks’ forward was vying for a high ball in midfield when Kurt-Lee Arendse received a lucky bounce, allowing the wing to squeak through for the Boks’ first try, which tied the game.

A head-on collision between Etzebeth and Uini Atonio just before halftime resulted in Etzebeth receiving a yellow card rather than a red one, which infuriated the French section of the Paris fans who may not have been well-versed in the idea that bent knees provide “mitigating circumstances” in the tackle.

Etzebeth was the player who recovered the ball from a ruck 10 meters from the French line late in the game when the Springboks were trailing 25-19. He then barged and bullied his way through the tackles of Matthieu Jalibert, Thomas Ramos, and Pierre Bourgarit.


It was another panto moment, the angry green giant swotting away the flies. This time there was no hissing from the French, only an awed silence.

Etzebeth’s try, converted by Handre Pollard gave the Boks a lead they never let go, their 29-28 win sending them through to a semi-final against England next Saturday.


First capped against England in 2012, Etzebeth, who stands 2.04 metres and weighs in at 119kg, will win his 118th cap in Paris on Saturday, leaving him just nine short of Matfield’s South Africa record of 127.

“Eben is the heart of the pack,” said Matfield just before the pool game against Ireland.

“When you think about the physicality he brings, in the mauls, in the middle of it, stopping mauls… being the powerhouse.

“He’s also got an engine and he never stops.”

In 2019, the year he won the World Cup with the Boks, he made headlines off the field when he and his cousin were charged with violence and using racist slurs in a Langebaan incident.

No charges were ever filed against Etzebeth, and the case was never brought to court, but the case surely damaged his reputation since “no smoke without fire.”

This year, he overcame a shoulder injury, but in July, he experienced another devastating personal crisis when his father, Harry, passed away from cancer. A few days later, in Auckland, he led his team out as captain in Siya Kolisi’s absence.

The path has been one of amazing endurance and consistency in high performance.

The Boks will be praying that their “enforcer” keeps going, at least until he is wearing a second medal of victory around his neck.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button