Bok Legend Bakkies hits out at Etzebeth
SPOTLIGHT: Springboks great John Phillip ‘Bakkies’ Botha could not contain his disappointment with Eben Etzebeth’s early exit from France and Top 14 strugglers Toulon.
In many ways a protégé of Botha, if it not a metaphorical descendent in the Springboks engine room, Etzebeth confirmed that he was returning to South Africa to join Durban-based franchise the Sharks.
The 30-year-old will be exciting his contract with RCT a season early after an injury-plagued spell in the south of France.
#ICYMI: Another injury set-back for @Springboks superstar Eben Etzebeth #rugby #Sports @SharksRugby https://t.co/zvvfYUEMRp
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) February 20, 2022
It appears to have been a mutual break-up, with Toulon president Bernard Lemaître stating last month that having a player of Etzebeth’s calibre and pay grade injured was in effect a ‘handicap’ for the Top 14 side.
Even in that context, Botha wasn’t convinced by the decision.
Botha famously spent four years at the club, winning a Champions Cup, a Challenge Cup and a Top 14 title with the side.
Speaking with French media this week, Botha said the 30-year-old Rugby World Cup winner hadn’t shown his best side while in France, a league which he felt didn’t suit him.
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“Eben Etzebeth? Incredible fighter, best second row in the world,” Botha told Midi Olympique.
“But I regret that he only shows his best face with the Springboks.
“In Toulon, he is still a little injured, concussed and in the end, never plays.
“Obviously, he was not made for France and he will turn his back on the problems the club went through to return to South Africa.”
Botha hung up his Springboks boots in 2014, just two years after Etzebeth won his first South African cap.
The similarities between the pair are obvious: massive, athletic locks whose hyper-aggressive aggressive approach to game strikes fear into opponents.
Yet while Botha says he ‘loves Etzebeth’, he can’t help but feel his spiritual descendent is leaving France with his tail between his legs.
“It’s disappointing. I love Eben, I repeat,” Botha said.
“But you can’t say when you arrive in Toulon: ‘I want to be champion of France’ and leave later without having marked the club in one way or another.
“His first season was not bad but it is not enough. When you recruit a world-class player, it’s for him to make a difference.”
By Ian Cameron, Rugbypass