Jacques van der Westhuyzen

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen

Head of Sport

OPINION: Eben Etzebeth on track to be greatest Bok of them all?

The towering Springboks lock joins six other South African Test centurions — Percy Montgomery, John Smit, Jean de Villiers, Victor Matfield, Bryan Habana and Tendai Mtawarira.

The first time I heard the name Eben Etzebeth was in 2011 when the lock played in a Varsity Cup game for the University of Cape Town.

I watched this fresh-faced giant of a man dominate in a tight clash and I knew right away he was going to be a star. Etzebeth stood out in that Ikeys team – and he’s continued to be a big presence wherever he has played.

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Etzebeth is an imposing figure at 2.03m tall and 122kg. He’s also got a big personality and a reputation for being a no-nonsense man – following in the footsteps in the Springbok team of someone who was of similar standing – Bakkies Botha.

Comparisons have been made between the two Springbok second rows, with polls often asking, ‘Who is the best Bok No 4 lock?’

It’s always been a topic of hot debate, but really it doesn’t matter who you prefer. The reality is Botha was excellent in his time; as Etzebeth is now and has been for the last 10 years.

ALSO READ: Etzebeth hits 100 Test caps mark: Who are the other six Bok centurions?

The man from Bellville in the Cape will earn his 100th Test cap against Wales on Saturday, in the city where it all started for him. It will be a big occasion for the powerful lock, who not only played for Western Province and the Stormers but for the Red Hurricanes in Japan and Toulon in France. When he runs out next for a franchise it will be for the Sharks.

Eben Etzebeth
Eben Etzebeth (far right) with fellow Boks Steven Kitshoff, Scarra Ntubeni and Frans Malherbe after winning the Currie Cup in 2012. Picture: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Etzebeth deserves a big performance by the Boks against Wales at the Cape Town Stadium. He has given plenty to the national team’s cause over the last 10 years, led the Boks on 12 occasions and is right up there with the other six Bok centurions – Percy Montgomery, Jean de Villiers, John Smit, Tendai Mtawarira, Bryan Habana and Victor Matfield.

All these men, like Etzebeth, won multiple trophies and titles in their careers, including the World Cup, and are considered greats of South African rugby. At only 30 Etzebeth has time on his side and he could very easily play many many more Tests to become SA rugby’s greatest player.

That is, if he isn’t already the best Springbok of them all.

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