Etzebeth defiant as All Blacks loom

06 October 2017 - 13:14 By Craig Ray‚ Cape Town
Eben Etzebeth. File photo.
Eben Etzebeth. File photo.
Image: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth believes the Boks have what it takes to beat the All Blacks when the sides clash at Newlands in their final Rugby Championship match of the season on Saturday.

“We’ve got the team‚ the management and the plans to beat the All Blacks‚” a defiant Etzebeth said.

Considering the Boks have lost their last three matches against New Zealand by an aggregate score of 52-9‚ which included a record 57-0 loss in Albany three weeks ago‚ it’s a bold statement from the captain.

Etzebeth must have thought the job was pretty simple for a while after three wins and an away draw in his first four matches in charge. That was before the All Blacks doused Etzebeth and his team with a bucket-full of ice-cold reality.

The 57-0 loss in Albany three weeks ago was a record losing score for the Boks in 126 years of test rugby and a chastening reminder of the difference between commendable effort and clinical execution.

Etzebeth admits that it became difficult to keep a lid on the ballooning score and the increasing crumbling of his team after making all the play in the opening quarter‚ only to see the All Blacks capitalise on three Bok mistakes and score three tries. The world champions led 24-0 and they had hardly touched the ball.

The challenge when the old rivals meet at Newlands again this weekend won’t be any easier‚ but at least the captain has gleaned experience from Albany.

“Taking 50 points is not easy for any team so we definitely have a point to prove this weekend back in SA‚” Etzebeth said.

“The biggest lesson I learnt was that it’s not nice to stand behind the poles so many times. After a while it becomes difficult to get the message across.

“The guys think about the score so the best is to make a better start‚ not turn the ball over and to make sure you’re not chasing the game.”

The Boks returned to the field last week and snared a 27-27 draw against Australia in Bloemfontein‚ which was a disappointing result on home ground.

Etzebeth was pleased with the effort but was critical of his team’s finishing against the Wallabies.

“We had chances against Australia last weekend but we didn’t take them‚” Etzebeth said. “We forced a couple of passes inside their 22-metre area when perhaps we should have hung onto the ball.

“When we get a line break perhaps we’re too keen to finish it off quickly.

“The All Blacks are very dangerous from turnover attack so we will have to respect possession and not force any 50/50 offloads.

“We have to keep the ball and also make sure we put points on the board when in control‚ like we were in those first 15 to 20 minutes in Albany.”