Etzebeth ready for more Barbarians magic
Eben Etzebeth wants to be part of more “magic” with the Barbarians when he joins the world famous invitation side taking on Argentina on December 1.
The giant South Africa lock will face England, France, Scotland and Wales in November before the Baa-baas take on Argentina in the Killik Cup match at Twickenham.
Etzebeth was part of the Springboks’ squad held to a 31-31 draw by the Barbarians two years ago, when the sides shared 10 tries in a thriller at Wembley containing classic scores.
Now he gets to follow in the footsteps of great South African second row forwards to appear for the club including Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, who both bowed out against the Pumas in 2015.
“I was on the bench that day [at Wembley] and obviously for us, it wasn’t the best start to our tour but it was exciting to play against the Baa-baas,” said Etzebeth.
“I’d heard lots of stories about how guys from all over the world come together for a week and then on Saturday they throw the ball around and it actually works for them. When we played them, we saw how quickly they got together on the field to play some terrific rugby.
“They can produce real magic. Just look at games like earlier this year when they scored 60 points against England, back in 2009 when they beat New Zealand and in 2016 when they drew against us. That’s the top teams in the world tested by guys who have been together for a week. It shows the magic that you can create.
“I’m a bit jealous of [South African] guys like Rob du Preez and Akker van der Merwe who’ve had the chance in the last couple of years.
“I was supposed to play back in 2013 but unfortunately injury prevented me so hopefully I can avoid injury this time and I’m really looking forward to joining the famous names who’ve worn the black and white.”
Argentina won the last meeting with the Barbarians 49-31 in 2015 and beat both South Africa and Australia in this year’s Rugby Championship to underline their quality under new coach Mario Ledesma.
“The Pumas are exceptional,” said Etzebeth. “They can be very good and on their day they can beat anyone in the world. Pablo Matera has been playing very well.”
Their 2015 meeting with the Barbarians ended with a last-minute try for Matfield with his second row partner Botha taking the final kick at goal before retiring from the sport.
Botha’s conversion effort — some way off target — was registered by Etzebeth. “If the flyhalf allows me to take the kick at goal I’d love to do that,” he said. “I don’t think I can do worse than Bakkies!”
And he’s looking forward to seeing Springboks’ coach Rassie Erasmus in a different environment, following in the footsteps of Nick Mallett, whose side beat New Zealand in 2009 and planning some on-field surprises.
“When I came back in after injury [this summer] I’d just heard good things about him — he’s really good at what he does,” added Etzebeth.
“In a Barbarians team, he can offer that something more because there’s no added extra pressure so I’m sure he’s going to enjoy it and have a couple of tricks up his sleeve.”