As one of his closest friends, Siya Kolisi has praised Eben Etzebeth for being a soldier of Springbok rugby as the formidable lock looks set to bring up 100 Test caps on Saturday.
Etzebeth, who made his international debut in June 2012 against England, will become the seventh – and youngest – South African to reach the significant career milestone, following in the footsteps of Victor Matfield, Bryan Habana, Tendai Mtawarira, John Smit, Jean de Villiers and Percy Montgomery.
Kolisi and Etzebeth met when they were playing Craven Week, then represented UCT, Western Province and the Stormers together, before memorably winning the Rugby World Cup with the Boks in 2019.
Asked ahead of the decisive Test against Wales at Cape Town Stadium about Etzebeth’s imminent achievement, Bok skipper Kolisi told reporters: “We’ve come a long way together … we met at Craven Week, we were both 18.
“He’s one of the reasons I moved to Western Province, and was one of the first friends I had who spoke Afrikaans.
“Our families are close and although rugby has given us an opportunity to become friends, it extends beyond the field of play. I obviously love him with all my heart.
“He’s a guy you can rely on, on the field. He’s there in the trenches and even when people intimidate me, he stands up for me on the field.
“We’re ecstatic for him. He’s worked hard. Not many people have put on this jersey that many times.
“I am honoured to be playing in the same team with those guys who have worn this jersey with pride over and over again.”
On Bok hooker Bongi Mbonambi, who will make his 50th appearance in the green and gold, Kolisi added: “Bongi is Bongi, he wears his heart on his sleeve at all times and we want to do it for them but most importantly for the people of South Africa.”
Last week, Wales levelled the series by logging their first win against the Springboks in South Africa, setting up an intriguing finale in Cape Town on Saturday.
“We have been in these situations before, and it builds character,” Kolisi said.
“The coaches want us to be in situations such as these, so this is nothing new for us. But I am sure Wales have been in these situations, too.
“Wales are a tough team – they don’t stop playing for 80 minutes – but we are looking forward to this weekend.
“We looked at last week’s game and where they were strong, and we have been working on that and improving our game.”