Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Etzebeth set for Sharks return to try reverse team’s fortunes

Etzebeth is fresh off receiving a second consecutive SA Rugby Player of the Year award at the ceremony held in Johannesburg.

Springbok and Sharks enforcer Eben Etzebeth is nearing his return to the team after recovering from knee surgery last month and will be hoping that his presence will help lift the franchise after a dismal season in the United Rugby Championship (URC) so far.

The Sharks are rock bottom on the URC log and most likely out of the running for a place in the competition knockouts, with the top eight contesting the quarterfinals, although they have played decently in the Challenge Cup where they topped the log and will host a last 16 clash.

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Etzebeth is fresh off receiving a second consecutive SA Rugby Player of the Year award at the ceremony held in Johannesburg earlier this week and admitted that his immediate goal was to get on the field for the Sharks and put in some big performances.

He claimed that to be picked for the Boks international campaign later this year, he as well as all the other franchise players in the country have to be playing at the highest level if they want to make it a successful season on the national front.

Stay fit and play

“For now my goal is to stay fit and play. Obviously I am coming back from a knee injury and trying to regain form with the Sharks, because you can’t play for the Springboks if you’re not performing (well) for your club,” explained Etzebeth.

“So that’s the first thing that I need to do, as well as all the other players who want to be selected (for the Boks later this season). They have to perform (well) for their clubs.

“Hopefully we can all then contribute to the Springboks and make it a successful year. We want to show why we are world champions, keep the number one spot (on the world rugby rankings) and just make South Africa proud.”

The Sharks next two URC matches are big home encounters against Irish giants Ulster and Scottish side Edinburgh, and with their Boks back in action it will be the perfect two games to try and make a statement after only picking up one win in 10 games in the competition to date.

Etzebeth said it would be touch and go for him making the Ulster match, but that he should be fit and ready to face Edinburgh the week after.

“I should be back within the next week or two. I have been training with the team this week. There is a chance I might be in the mix next weekend (against Ulster) but we will see how I go next week and will then make the call,” explained Etzebeth.