Fit-again Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth is excited by the prospect of reminding the rugby world of just what he is capable of, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Durban.
Etzebeth last played for the Boks on the 2017 end-of-year tour, where he aggravated a shoulder injury that has kept him out of action for nearly nine months.
On Thursday, Etzebeth was named in the Boks’ starting lineup to face Argentina in this Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener, with the big man fronting up to the media in a jovial mood.
‘I’ve missed you guys,’ he said with a beaming smile and a slight sense of mirth.
After missing out on the June Test series against England, Etzebeth reiterated just how good it felt to be back in the Bok environment.
‘It’s obviously been a long time. I think the rugby world has forgotten about me. It’s been more than eight months so it’s just nice to be back in a team environment. Doing rehab with a physio every day is a lonely world, so just seeing the guys and having Siya [Kolisi] as my roommate… It’s just great.
‘I was actually very emotional [to be unavailable in June], especially watching the guys run out and sing the national anthem. I just love Springbok rugby and seeing them play and not being there was very tough, but knowing I’m going to run out with them again on Saturday is an awesome feeling.’
After sitting on the sidelines for such an extended period, Etzebeth said he hoped to receive as much game time as possible on Saturday.
‘I had eight months to work on getting back to full fitness, and I can sit here now and say I’m ready, but it’s really on Saturday when me and the rest of the world will really see if I’m ready to play again, and I’m looking forward to that.
‘When those guys line up and sing the national anthem, I think that’s probably the best song I can sing. You obviously miss the jokes and everything in between, but when the game kicks off in the end, it’s the 80 minutes on the pitch where you get to test yourself against the world’s best and that’s what you miss.’
It will also be the first Test that Etzebeth plays with good friend Kolisi as captain.
‘Everyone knows Siya and I have a really good relationship,’ he commented. ‘When Siya was named captain, I immediately phoned him, and he told me how excited he was and how he was feeling.
‘I’ve worked with Siya since U18 level, and just to see him grow as a man and leader over the past two years has been wonderful. Can I say I love another man? Because I really love the guy, and it’s awesome for me to see him as captain, and I’ll be there to back him all the way.’
Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images