Captain Etzebeth hungry for success in NZ

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 10:37
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RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP BUILD-UP: Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth says the captaincy role has made him even more hungry for success on the rugby field. 

Etzebeth took over the captaincy for this year's Rugby Championship after Warren Whiteley was ruled out through injury and it has been a fairly successful stint so far in the leadership role for the bruising lock.

The 25-year-old led the Springboks to two victories over Argentina as well as a 23-all draw with the Wallabies in Perth last week.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Saturday's clash against the All Blacks in Albany, Etzebeth said being captain has motivated him to work harder for his team.

"I think I am even more competitive," said Etzebeth.

"When you captain you actually want the team to do even better. 

"You even want to win more as a captain, so I think the competitive side of me has actually improved a lot. 

"You want to walk off the field as a victorious captain."

The All Blacks enter Saturday's encounter without two of their first-choice props in the form of Joe Moody and Owen Franks, but Etzebeth is not taking starters Kane Hames and Nepo Laulala lightly ahead of the big clash.

"If you put on an All Black jersey you must be very good, so I think I really rate them," he said.

"I think they are good players. I know they lost two experienced props and they still got a guy like [Wyatt] Crockett on the bench who also brings a lot of experience. 

"So, they must be two very good players if they get picked ahead of Wyatt Crockett."

Saturday's clash will be pivotal in determining which side takes the Rugby Championship title this year. 

With only two rounds to play after Saturday, the winner at North Harbour Stadium will be in a strong position to claim the championship.

The All Blacks, who drew a three-Test series against the Lions earlier this year, have the upper hand in their history against South Africa, winning 55 of 93 matches. 

The honours were even until 2000, with the All Blacks winning 29 of 39 games since then, including a record 57-15 thrashing in Durban last year.

But with the Springboks unbeaten after six Tests this year, Etzebeth said the nightmare of 2016, when they only won four of 12 internationals, had been put behind them.

"It took us a couple of months [to get over the Durban hiding]. That really hurt," said the giant lock who along with prop Tendai Mtawarira are the only survivors from the run-on side 12 months ago who will start on Saturday.

"In preparation for this year we said last year, the whole 2016 not just the defeat against the All Blacks, the whole 2016, including my yellow card, we put behind us. 

"I must say this year has gone better so far and tomorrow's the biggest challenge of the year so we can't wait." 

It has been eight years since the Springboks last won in New Zealand but Etzebeth did not want to dwell on the past.

"I know they want to win the Test match tomorrow and so do we so records don't count for much ... we know what we have to do to win this game."

@rugby365com & AFP

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