Eben Etzebeth has credited All Blacks great Ma’a Nonu with having delivered the hardest hit on the world-renowned Springbok enforcer.
The 97-time-capped Etzebeth is one of the toughest players on the planet, and holds nothing back between the white lines.
He announced himself to the world in 2012 with a monster hit on Bismarck du Plessis in Super Rugby, and the Toulon juggernaut’s famed reputation has only grown.
But, Etzebeth says Kiwi midfielder Nonu remains the only player he has faced who could dish it out just as hard as him.
“Back in the day, when I went up against Ma’a Nonu. He hit me once and he just hit me from the side,” Etzebeth told Jim Hamilton, during a RugbyPass interview.
“I thought it was one of their props hitting me, [then] I looked at him. He was quite a hard man. Probably the guy who tackled me the hardest.”
The 30-year-old, who is heading home to play for the Sharks from July, says some of the toughest players come from SA, and he is relieved he doesn’t have to go up against his fellow Boks in the Test arena.
He added: “I wouldn’t ever want to play against the Springboks! If you look at guys like Siya, Pieter-Steph and Duane, Bongi, Kitshoff, all those guys.
“For me, back when I was with the Stormers, Marcell Coetzee when he was with the Sharks, somehow we’d always try to look for each other and run into each other.
“The same when I played against Beast [Tendai Mtawarira]. He actually gave me some s*** after the game. He told me, ‘Why do you keep running at me?’
“It’s nice playing against friends but then there’s playing against guys that you don’t like that much, there’s always a bit of extra spice,” the second-row titan said on facing world-class locks.
“It’s always good up against players like Brodie Retallick, Maro Itoje, James Ryan and Alun Wyn Jones, and yourself [Hamilton] back in 2013.”