Etzebeth the sharp end of 'SA weapon'

Eben Etzebeth embodied the Sharks' determination and scrum prowess by a team from the Republic in their maiden EPCR title victory, writes MARK KEOHANE.

Etzebeth and the Durbanites made history by becoming the first South African team to win a Challenge Cup final with a 36-22 win against Gloucester in London on Friday night.

Writing for TimesLIVE, Keohane lauds Etzebeth’s exceptional leadership and performance, comparing it to his impressive display during the 2023 Rugby World Cup playoffs for the Springboks.

He highlights that the towering lock, stepping up in the absence of Lukanyo Am, was instrumental both defensively and at set pieces, and maintained intense communication with match officials.

“Eben Etzebeth stood the tallest and roared the loudest in north London as the Sharks won the Challenge Cup,” Keohane writes.

“Etzebeth, on average this season, has played 56 minutes a game for the Sharks. He went 82 minutes in the final, from the opening to the closing minutes. Nothing and no one was going to remove him until the final whistle.”

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He underscores the dominance of Etzebeth's World Cup-winning teammates in the tight five, specifically Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Man of the Match Vincent Koch, who dismantled Gloucester's scrum, winning numerous penalties.

“The hour of absolute Sharks dominance is what one expects when one tight five has four World Cup-winning players and the other has five brave but hopelessly outclassed plodders parading as a tight five,” Keohane writes.

“The scrum, a South African weapon, was once again crucial to the outcome. It remains rugby bliss to see a powerful set piece crush the opposition.”

He emphasises that Siya Masuku's flawless goal-kicking ensured the Sharks’ supremacy was reflected on the scoreboard, as well as enhancing the flyhalf’s prospects for Bok selection against Wales on 22 June.

“Masuku's general play was as good as his goal-kicking as he continued to kick at the door of Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus.” Keohane writes.

Photo: @Springboks/Twitter

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