Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

‘Two more hurdles left,’ says Bok enforcer Eben Etzebeth

England will also likely have revenge on their minds, after they were heavily beaten 32-12 in the 2019 World Cup final.

Springbok enforcer Eben Etzebeth says the team is not resting on their laurels and that they have two more hurdles to go, the first being their Rugby World Cup semifinal clash against England at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis on Saturday night.

The Boks had to get through a bruising and draining quarterfinal clash against hosts France over the past weekend and will need to lift themselves up for the semifinal challenge.

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Etzebeth claims that the players are fully motivated for the game and that they will be going all out to come out on top.

“For us, we approach it as being a World Cup semifinal. All four teams left have got two more hurdles before they can claim the trophy. That’s more than enough motivation to not let your form or performance dip. It’s the biggest prize in rugby you can win,” explained Etzebeth.

“We know how physically intense the game was against France. But it’s in the past. Nobody can write about you about what’s happened in the past. It’s about this coming Saturday against England and we’ll be focused on that.”

Itoje rivalry

Etzebeth is set to resume a big rivalry with England lock Maro Itoje, that has developed over the years, with him having come out on top in the 2019 World Cup final and in the British and Irish Lions series.

However, he is not focused on just one player in the game and although Itoje recently came out and said he is a better player than he was during this year’s Six Nations, that isn’t something that Etzebeth is worried about.

“It’s not an individual thing, it’s a team thing. We don’t go out to go one-on-one against each other. It’s the Springboks versus England. In a game a few one-on-one battles will happen. It’s us against them,” said Etzebeth.

“I haven’t watched many of their (England Six Nations) games. He (Itoje) is a good player. There’s an old saying that form is temporary, class is permanent. I wouldn’t want to comment too much on his form but if he thinks it’s better now, then it probably is.”

Revenge mission

England will also likely have revenge on their mind, after they were heavily beaten 32-12 in the 2019 World Cup final, while they were also comfortably beaten by the Boks 27-13 at home on the 2022 end-of-year-tour.

“You always want to respond after a setback. It was a big one, a World Cup final. We know they will still be thinking about that one,” said Etzebeth.

“But it’s a World Cup semi for us. It’s two more hurdles. It’s very important to get through that last hurdle so we’ll be focused on that. We know how hard and aggressively they will come at us on Saturday but we will go exactly the same fashion.”

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