NZ hard man blasts Etzebeth
Eben Etzebeth (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth 'kind of got what he deserved' when bitten on the forearm by Argentina’s Leonardo Senatore in Mendoza recently.
So says retired All Blacks prop Richard Loe, no shrinking violet himself in a chequered international playing career that included bans for punching and eye gouging.
The now 53-year-old Loe, a columnist and television pundit, wrote in The New Zealand Herald that he does not believe the Pumas, New Zealand’s Castle Rugby Championship opponents in Hamilton on Saturday (09:35 SA time), are premeditated exponents of foul play.
That is despite Senatore receiving a nine-week ban for biting Etzebeth in the Boks’ 22-17 victory, and another Argentinean player being cleared of a gouging allegation.
"I wouldn’t have too many worries about them (the Pumas) coming here with a plan to deliberately unsettle the All Blacks with acts of foul play ... I just don’t see them as that type of side, contrary to what happened in Mendoza.
"In the case of Senatore, I thought that Eben Etzebeth kind of got what he deserved for slamming his forearm into the Puma No 8’s face.
"The incident was not in my view a case of the player deliberately setting out to bite – it wasn’t like the time Johan le Roux bit Sean Fitzpatrick’s ear – so I wouldn’t read too much into it."
Loe also said he felt the Pumas’ nightmare 73-13 first-round loss to the Boks in Johannesburg was misleading.
"Most of their squad play in France ... when they came together to play the Springboks in South Africa, I think it was a rude reality check.
"The Pumas are physically good enough, but the top two inches were probably not fully engaged.
"That result woke them up: when they headed back to Mendoza, I thought their tackling and ball-carrying was great – really robust."
Although the All Blacks will be heavy favourites to beat Argentina at Waikato Stadium, the Boks will quietly be hoping the visitors can match their resolve in New Zealand last year, when they only surrendered 21-5 in Wellington and by two tries to one, thus preventing the All Blacks from getting a bonus point.
Meanwhile in Brisbane, young firebrand Etzebeth will take his place in the Bok second row when coach Heyneke Meyer reveals his side to tackle Australia (Saturday, 12:05) later this week, although probably as aware as others in the Bok camp that he is potentially a marked man by officials given his known short fuse.
In the corresponding game Down Under last year, in Perth, Etzebeth was banned for a fortnight for an attempted head-butt on Wallaby veteran Nathan Sharpe, even if video evidence was inconclusive as to whether contact was made and the Aussie player seemed to cleverly 'milk' the incident.
The referee in Brisbane on Saturday will be Ireland’s Alain Rolland.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing