"Welcome to the best day of my life" - Etzebeth
“Welcome to the best day of my life‚” was how Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth summed up his emotions after hearing the news that he was to lead the team against France at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Etzebeth‚ 25‚ became Springbok captain No 59 after Warren Whiteley cried off with a groin injury‚ and he didn’t disappoint‚ leading from a front with a rampaging display.
The Boks won 35-12 to seal a 3-0 series whitewash over France and create a small bit of history by beating Les Blues at Ellis Park for the first time in their fifth attempt‚ going back to 1958.
Etzebeth scored a try – his third in his 57th Test – for good measure.
“Welcome to the best day of my life. The last 24 hours were unbelievable for me‚” Etzebeth said.
“We have a leadership group in the squad and we know exactly what we want on and off the field‚ so filling in for Warren was quite easy.
“We also have a good leadership group with Siya (Kolisi)‚ Elton (Jantjies) and Beast (Tendai Mtawarira) backing me as well as the whole team. Everyone is a captain in their own position ultimately.
“We’ve done well against France because we had a lot of time to prepare with our pre-season camp. That time also allowed us to get to know one another as people and we became a closer group because of it.
“This has probably been the best three weeks I’ve ever had with the Springboks and everywhere we have been‚ the fans have been great.”
The bruising lock has been part of the Stormers’ leadership group over the past few seasons and this year he has captained the side when regular skipper Siya Kolisi has been rested.
Yet Etzebeth’s elevation to Bok captain still came a slight surprise to many‚ although not to those in the in Bok inner circle.
“Eben was the vice-captain‚ which was planned in our Plettenburg Bay camp already‚ so there was no confusion about who would lead the team when Warren (Whiteley) was withdrawn late‚” coach Allister Coetzee said.
“The players knew who would take over if Warren dropped out and they know who will be captain if Eben falls out.”
Etzebeth’s captaincy period might be extended as well‚ depending on Whiteley’s medical assessments in the coming days.
Coetzee confirmed that Whiteley has a “small tear” in his groin. Surgery might still be required.
“Warren had a groin strain initially and he was managed accordingly throughout this series‚” Coetzee said.
“We gave him until Thursday‚ but he had to train then. He landed awkwardly in a lineout session and he went for a sonar scan. That showed a little tear in his groin and we didn’t want to risk playing him.
“There is no indication how long Warren will be out and he will be assessed on Monday again. Our medical team in consultation with the Lions doctor will make a decision.”