Given a rare start alongside flyhalf Handre Pollard, Springbok inside centre Andre Esterhuizen can’t wait to tackle Tonga in the World Cup on Sunday.
He will join forces with the returning Pollard and outside centre Canan Moodie in an exciting 10-12-13 trifecta for the world champions in Marseille, as one of 12 changes to the starting XV from a defeat by Ireland last week.
Making his second appearance of the tournament, after a solid performance in a 76-0 rout against Romania, Esterhuizen is relishing another opportunity as South Africa look to return to winning ways.
Speaking in a Bok conference on Friday, the 29-year-old addressed his role in the wider squad as well as playing with Pollard, who will run out for his first Test in 13 months.
“I just play when I am selected, we spoke about it quite a few times. We don’t see it as two different teams, an A and B side. You can see there is a good mixture between players every single game,” Esterhuizen told reporters.
“It is about game time and game management for every single player to be ready. If you haven’t been selected for four weeks and you need to all of a sudden play in a quarter-final, it’s probably not going to go well.
“Everyone needs to get match fit and get some rugby under their belt so you have 33 players to choose from.”
He added: “Every player has a different skill set and mindset about a game. I haven’t played a lot with Polly but he is a world-class player and has been on this stage before, he’s won the World Cup and beaten the British & Irish Lions.
“We have not played a lot together, but we have been training a lot for… going back to South Africa U20s, we started playing there together for the whole tournament. We’ve known each other for quite a while now.”
On the physicality of the Tongans, the hulking SA midfielder nicknamed ‘The Giant’ said: “For me, it is just like every other game. Every game I play the same, doesn’t matter who you’re playing against.
“We are up against a physical side this weekend. They’ve got some tough players in the backline, and forwards – they’ve got a massive pack.
“We aim to win the physicality battle like every other weekend. This weekend it’s going to be just a little bit harder. You are going to run into a few big boys, but that is the challenge.”
Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP