Craig Lewis

New Bok skipper to take control

Eben Etzebeth against Argentina Eben Etzebeth against Argentina

Eben Etzebeth is aiming to embrace the additional responsibility as the captain of the Springboks for an extended period, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Port Elizabeth.

As the Boks’ lock enforcer, Etzebeth is a player who is well-known for his imposing physical presence and intimidation factor that has seen him regularly lead the physical confrontations on the field.

However, when Etzebeth took centre stage at the captain’s press conference in Port Elizabeth on Friday, he admitted to feeling rather intimidated by the responsibility of fronting up to the media.

While Etzebeth appeared to be in good spirits, and was all smiles for most of the media briefing, he is a man of few words, and admitted as much when describing his brand of leadership.

‘I’m not a captain that will speak a lot,’ he said with a chuckle. ‘But hopefully I can lead by my actions. It’s great to have other leaders like Elton [Jantjies], who is a really good communicator, and obviously [vice-captain] Siya Kolisi and Beast [Mtawarira], who has 90 Test caps. I’m really looking forward to this challenge on Saturday.’

There has been plenty of intensity from the Boks during this week’s training in a mostly cold, wet and windy Port Elizabeth as final preparations have been put in place for Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener against Argentina.

And while Etzebeth did fill in as captain for the injured Warren Whiteley during the final June Test against France, he has now taken on the caretaker role in a more permanent capacity, with the Boks’ regular skipper set to be sidelined for an extended period due to a groin injury.

PREVIEW: Boks vs Argentina

The hulking second-rower said he had looked to take on more leadership responsibility during the Boks’ training sessions.

‘I’ve known it’s important to take a bit more control at training, and although it has been a bit different to have this role in a [more permanent] capacity, it’s something I’m really enjoying.'

Although some might have been surprised by the 25-year-old’s appointment ahead of someone like Stormers skipper Kolisi, Etzebeth explained that the Boks had a very clearly defined leadership system.

‘When we got together at the Boks earlier this year, Allister [Coetzee] established a leadership group. From then on, I knew that if something had to happen to Warren I’d be next in line as captain. So it didn’t come as too much of a surprise when he got injured. I probably am a bit of a different leader, but it is such an awesome feeling.’

Coetzee said Etzebeth’s leadership style suited the philosophy of ‘clarity and simplicity’ that the Boks are looking to establish.

‘Our captain has a no-nonsense approach. There are no grey areas with Eben, only black and white, and that’s how we want to make decisions. Eben’s personality and mindset suits the team’s DNA and approach, he’s been really good on and off the field. He has a big job to do, and he needs to manage the referee very well, but he has lots of leaders around him, so I’m very confident in his ability to lead this team well.’

Photo: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images

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