Etzebeth relishing captaincy as he comes out of his shell
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Captaincy sits well with Eben Etzebeth even if the giant South African lock is a not a man of many words and seems uncomfortable in the spotlight.
Etzebeth led the Springboks to a 41-23 victory over Argentina in the Rugby Championship on Saturday, his third successive triumph since taking over as skipper from the injured Warren Whiteley as South Africa continued their revival following a dreadful 2016.
“It’s been probably the best time I’ve had with Springboks,” Etzebeth told reporters at Cape Town airport on Tuesday.
“It’s been unbelievable. I’ve really enjoyed the last three weeks and the French series (in June). It’s been so easy with the guys around me like Elton Jantjies, Tendai (Mtawarira) and Siya (Kolisi) and all the coaches laying out the plans for us and make it so much easier for us.
“I like expressing my emotions on the field a little bit more, when we get into a huddle. Also running out in front, knowing you are leading out the team is really special. It’s something I never imagined in my wildest dreams,” Etzebeth added.
For all his imposing and intimidating presence at 2.04 metres tall, the 26-year-old has previously proven shy and monosyllabic.
“He doesn’t say much but when he does, the other guys listen,” South Africa coach Allister Coetzee said.
But Etzebeth, who made his international debut aged 20 in 2012 and has since won 60 caps, is relishing his leadership role.
“If you’d asked me a few years ago whether the captaincy was something that came naturally to me, I’d probably would have said no,” he said.
“But now it’s feeling good and, as I’ve said, something I’m really enjoying.”
He will be captain again for the next two Rugby Championship matches against Australia in Perth on Sept. 9 and world champions New Zealand in Auckland on Sept. 16.
Whiteley is expected back for the last two matches of South Africa’s programme in the southern hemisphere championship when they host the Wallabies and All Blacks.