Wales head coach Wayne Pivac has tipped “world class” Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth to remain a formidable figure for the world champions for many years to come, reports DEVIN HERMANUS.
Etzebeth celebrated his 100th Test cap with a series victory over Wales on his old stomping ground in Cape Town on Saturday, in the process also becoming the seventh and youngest centurion for the Boks.
The towering lock marked the milestone with several big carries, smashing tackles and even one or two outside line-breaks in a Man of the Match performance at Cape Town Stadium.
Speaking to reporters post-match and seemingly unaware that Etzebeth was sitting at the back of the press conference room, Pivac was asked where the Bok enforcer ranks among the world’s best.
The Kiwi said: “He’s a wonderful player and a good leader. From the young man who started his Test career to where he is now, he’s added an immense amount of discipline to his game.
“He’s a major, major part of the Springbok team and certainly when we were looking at the opposition, his name came up quite a bit.
“It’s a sign of respect that our team has for him; he’s a guy who has played 100 Test matches, which is no mean feat coming from a country like South Africa where you’ve got a lot of talent.
“I think he’s had a superb series, he’s world class and we wish him all the best for the remainder of his career, which I know will be a long one.”
Pivac knows a thing or two about coaching second-row titans blessed with longevity, having selected 36-year-old Alun Wyn Jones – the most capped player in Test rugby – for the series in the Republic.
Jones, who was initially reported doubtful to make the trip, showed his hunger to still compete at the elite level with an impressive shift off the bench on Saturday.
Pivac added: “I think he answered [any questions over his value] with his performance tonight, I think he did really well coming on. He was obviously frustrated with the first two Tests, picking up yellow cards… a bit unlucky there…
“So he was frustrated, but got on early tonight and had a really good game, and he’s keen to continue playing well and deemed to be good enough, and we clearly deem him good enough.”
Pivac believes Wales made progress in SA following a disappointing Six Nations campaign, adding there was “a little frustration with the scoreline” on Saturday after the Boks won 30-14 to clinch the series 2-1.
“It is a big step in the right direction,” he said. “We need to build on this tour.”
Skipper Dan Biggar echoed Pivac’s words: “Overall, it has been a really good campaign. Picking up a win was a huge tick and we played some good rugby as well.”
Biggar said Wales fought back after going 10-0 down in the first 15 minutes on Saturday, and were still in the game when trailing 14-17 after half time.
“Credit to South Africa,” the veteran flyhalf added. “They strangled the game a bit and forced us to make a couple of errors. It felt like we spent a lot of time in our own half.”