Etzebeth: Welcome to the best day of my life

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 18:25

REACTION: Stand-in Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth gave an offbeat response what epitomises the newfound joy of South Africa's national team.

With victory comes smiles, but there is something special brewing among the Boks and Etzebeth's response captured the true spirit.

Etzebeth took over the captaincy from regular captain Warren Whiteley, who had been nursing a groin strain throughout the June series, and lead the Boks to a 35-12 (four tries to nil) win over France at Ellis Park at the weekend.

Not only was it the first-ever Springbok win over Les Bleus at the famed Ellis Park, but it secured a 3-0 series whitewash over the French.

Although Etzebeth had been earmarked from the outset of the season to take over from Whiteley, should something happen to the Bok skipper, it was not till the Friday before the weekend's game that he was confirmed as captain for this match.

And he marked his debut as Bok skipper with a standout performance and a try - his third five-pointer in 57 Test matches.

He had a handful of string carries, made 14 tackles and even stole a line-out on the opposition's throw.

He was clearly enjoying the occasion and that carried through into the post-match media debriefing.

"Good evening, everyone - welcome to the best day of my life," the 25-year-old quipped, when asked about the match.

He described the previous 24 hours "absolutely unbelievable", but was quick to point out that he had been prepared to take over the captaincy.

"We have a leadership team [group] that knows exactly what we have on and off the field," the lock said.

"It makes it easy to slot into Warren's place. Warren has been outstanding the last two weeks.

"To take over the captaincy from him was quit easy. With Elton [Jantjies], Siya [Kolisi] and Beast [Tendai Mtawarira] it was just so easy."

He said the newfound enthusiasm in the team was brought about by the additional time they had for preparation.

"We had time to prepare and time to get to know each other.

"There is an absolute brotherhood and it was probably the best three weeks with the Springboks for me.

He said that running out on the field, with 55,000 fans in the stands was unbelievable.

Etzebeth said the next big hurdle is the Rugby Championship.

"We are happy with the 3-0 series win [over the French] and we are looking forward to the Rugby Championship."

By Jan de Koning, in Johannesburg
@king365ed
@rugby365com