Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Humble Etzebeth proud of Player of Year award: ‘To wear Bok jersey is ultimate motivation’

The big lock forward said he was proud of his achievements but added winning trophies with his team-mates remained the biggest prize.

Springbok enforcer Eben Etzebeth was humble as ever after clinching a second straight South African Rugby Player of the Year award at the 2023 awards ceremony in Johannesburg on Thursday night, admitting that it was team trophies and not individual ones that fuelled him.

Etzebeth has enjoyed an incredible past two years for the Boks, and backed up his first award from a fantastic 2022 season, by again producing the goods in a year that the national team went on to lift their second straight Webb Ellis Cup and fourth in total.

ALSO READ: Etzebeth, Boks win big at SA Rugby awards

After the ceremony Etzebeth was asked if one of things that he worked towards as a player was this award, with him answering with an emphatic no.

“I have to disagree with you there. We work towards team trophies. Winning World Cups, winning the Rugby Championship and when you play well in the team you sometimes get this reward,” explained Etzebeth.

“I would never say no to winning this unbelievable award and I am so humbled and honoured to win it, so I am really happy about that. But we will always strive to win team trophies. That’s why we play rugby and not tennis or golf.”

Happy with own form

However, Etzebeth did admit that he was happy with his own form over the past two seasons and that winning the award during a World Cup winning year made it just a little bit more special.

“To win an award like this you must be happy with your personal performance, so it has been great to win it two years in a row,” said Etzebeth.

“They are both (awards) very special to me. But I think this one happening in a World Cup year with us winning it will always be (a bit more) special.”

Having already won two World Cups and two Player of the Year awards, and entering the twilight of his career at 32 years-old, one might expect Etzebeth to not be as motivated as he was earlier in his career, however he claimed that just playing for the Springbok jersey was motivation enough.

“To wear the Springbok jersey is the ultimate motivation for me. To put that jersey on again whenever we play, is what I strive for,” said Etzebeth.

“Wales is next and then Ireland. I don’t know how the management will pick those teams. But my goal is to perform at the Sharks and be a part of that team.”

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Eben Etzebeth sa rugby Springboks (Bokke/Boks)