South African duo Eben Etzebeth and Bakkies Botha have been ‘credited’ for their bruising style of play by two foreign media outlets.
Former England flyhalf Stuart Barnes started the discussion about the 10 hardest players in world rugby in a Times column where Graham Price was named on the list. The former Wales and British & Irish Lions prop then took up his pen for Wales Online to name his selection of hard men.
Etzebeth featured in both, albeit not close to the top of the list, as he ranked fifth according to Barnes and was below the player many say he took over from, Botha, in Price’s selection as he rounded out the top 10.
‘In an era when it has been more difficult to “assert yourself” as a hard man because there are so many TV cameras around these days, he was still able to stand out as the Springboks’ enforcer for a decade,’ wrote Price about Botha.
He continued: ‘Let’s just say he was able to keep the tradition going of the hardest of South African second rows. Botha helped beat up the Lions in 2009 in what were brutal modern-day Test matches.’
Of Etzebeth, the current incumbent in the Springbok XV, he said: ‘Etzebeth is another who never took a backward step. He learned so much from watching Botha and they used to say he was ready to fight anyone – including the referee.’
Stuart Barnes’ greatest hard men of rugby
1 Gareth Chilcott (England), 2 Gerard Cholley (France), 3 Jonny Wilkinson (England), 4 Graham Price (Wales), 5 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa), 6 Wayne Shelford (NZ), 7 David Pocock (Australia), 8 Richie McCaw (NZ), 9 Scott Gibbs (Wales), 10 Jim Telfer (Scotland).
Graham Price’s greatest hard men of rugby
1 Gerard Cholley (France), 2 Michel Palmie (France), 3 Alain Esteve (France), 4 Colin Meads (New Zealand), 5 Frank Oliver (New Zealand), 6 Fran Cotton (England), 7 Wayne Shelford (New Zealand), 8 Jerry Collins (New Zealand), 9 Bakkies Botha (South Africa), 10 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa).
Photo: Albert Perez/Getty Images