Profile: Eben Etzebeth: Springboks’ engine room enforcer

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 played a significant role in numerous crucial moments that helped South Africa advance to the World Cup quarterfinal, earning the predominantly French home crowd boos and jeers for their new pantomime villain.

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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 Springboks.

“I think all teams have an enforcer, someone who 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.

“Over time, he improved his game.He’s a tough guy and when he initially entered the international stage, he came out swinging.

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

His contribution to the victory (against France) was significant.With France ahead 7-0 and approaching the South African tryline, Eben Etzebeth’s enormous right paw made a significant and contentious intervention early on.

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.

The Springboks’ first try, which tied the game, was scored a few moments later when Kurt-Lee Arendse was given a kind bounce of a high ball while the Sharks’ forward was vying for it near midfield.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.

The enraged green giant swatting the flies was another pantomime moment. This time, the French were silent in wonder rather than hissing.

The Springboks took the lead after Etzebeth’s try, which Handre Pollard successfully added to give them a 29-28 victory and advanced them to the semi-final against England the following Saturday.


Etzebeth, who won his first cap against England in 2012 and stands 2.04 meters tall and weighs 119 kg, will earn his 118th cap on Saturday in Paris, leaving him only nine short of Matfield’s South Africa record of 127.

Before the pool match against Ireland, Matfield remarked, “Eben is the heart of the pack.”

“When you consider the physicality he brings, in the middle of it all, preventing mauls… being the powerhouse.

He has an engine that never stops, too.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.

Despite the fact that Eben Etzebeth was never charged and the issue was never brought to court, his reputation suffered since there is 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 Springboks will be praying that their “enforcer” keeps going at least until he is wearing a second medal of victory around his neck.

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