Bok enforcer is one of the best
Eben Etzebeth may have just turned 21, but the lock's role as an 'enforcer' will be invaluable to the Springbok cause.
Eben Etzebeth may have just turned 21, but the lock's role as an 'enforcer' will be invaluable to the Springbok cause at Twickenham on Saturday.
Etzebeth, who was cleared of eye-gouging allegations earlier this week, was named in an unchanged starting XV for South Africa's encounter with England - the fourth time this year the two teams will go head-to-head.
And Bok mentor Heyneke Meyer was singing the young gun's praises when he addressed a media gathering at the team's base in London on Wednesday.
He described as a "fair process" that was "handled well", when asked about Etzebeth's acquittal on the foul play charges.
"It [his acquittal] makes a huge difference," Meyer said, adding: "I must say, Flip [van der Merwe] has been playing good rugby, he has been great all year and he showed himself against the All Blacks and Australia when he started.
"However, Eben is probably close to being one of the best locks in the world, especially at No.4.
"He has really grown as an individual and one of the enforcers in the team - it is great to have him available."
While many will see the reference to him being an 'enforcer' as meaning that he is a brutal player, Meyer said he is so much more.
He spoke of the 10-Test Bok's value in the set pieces.
"We had a 100 percent record in the line-outs in the last two Tests," the Bok coach said, adding: "It is a great combination [Eben Etzebeth and Juandre Kruger].
"We are really happy to have him back and it makes a huge difference to the team as well."
Asked what he meant by saying Etzebeth is an enforcer, Meyer said part of it is his physicality.
"However, Eben has grown a lot in the line-outs. Suddenly he is starting to put pressure on the opposition in the line-outs.
"Also, because of his weight advantage he is a huge benefit to us in the scrums.
"The one aspect of our play I have not been happy with is that, because of the difficult conditions, we were not getting quick ball.
"We were dangerous at Ellis Park [a 36-27 win for SA in June], when we played England, and we got quick ball.
"Eben is great and his cleaning technique is very good - he gets us quick ball there.
"He is a physical guy and brings that physical element to the pack, even though he is still a youngster.
"Flip [van der Merwe] is also a physical player and you need your locks to be physical and we will need that on Saturday."
Meyer admitted that wing JP Pieterse remains doubtful with a groin strain.
However, he said they are "very positive" that he will be fit.
"He couldn't train fully yesterday [Tuesday] and we will give him time till Friday's captain's run."
Prop Gurthro Steenkamp, who was also not feel 100 percent, is also expected to pass a late fitness test.
Meyer said it has been a long season and will be dangerous to say every single guy is 100 percent.
"He [Steenkamp] is ready to play, he is a warrior and he wants to play," Meyer said, adding that he does not see it as a risk to have Steenkamp in the starting XV.
"With the new law we have a full front row on the bench as well, which makes it easier.
"Heinke [van der Merwe] has come in and he has done really well for us there [at loosehead prop].
"However, we want the experience of Gurthro to start off."