Port Elizabeth - Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth has praised the strong leadership that enabled the team to get out of the hole that they were in at halftime to win the second test against Ireland at the weeknd.
The Boks won 32-26 but they were up against it when they trailed 19-3 at the break and many teams would have thrown in the towel at that point and accepted defeat as inevitable. According to Etzebeth, however, the calmness and methodical attention to the plan that was evidenced in the Bok dressing room was what pulled the team out of the mire.
“Now we can win the series and it is everything to play for at 1-all,” said Etzebeth in Port Elizabeth on Monday.
“In the last 20 minutes we stuck up our hands and enabled us to still be able to win the series. The coach was very calm at halftime and he gave us the right message. Now we have a game on our hands this weekend to clinch the series.”
Team captain Adriaan Strauss, in just his second test as the regular Bok skipper, was also singled out for praise from Etzebeth, who is young in years but has now played more than 40 test matches.
“In the first half there were lots of unforced errors. We kept getting to their line and then not being able to capitalise, and they went ahead and put pressure on us. We could have panicked but I thought the captain was exceptional when he spoke to us at halftime. He told us to just go out and stick tour our game plan. In the last 20 minutes everything just started to come together.”
But Etzebeth knows that although the momentum may have shifted to the Boks with the way they came back and ended the game in Johannesburg, there is still a lot to work on, and that includes in his areas of responsibility and expertise.
“The Irish put us under pressure at times in the scrum, and that is one of the key areas that needs attention. We also need to work on both our own lineout drive and on being better at stopping the Irish from driving. I was on the field when they scored their maul try. Eish.”
Etzebeth said he expected more of the same from the Irish team that was only just denied a series victory in the second test.
“I think they will stick to their plan of kicking us into the corners,” he said. “What is important is that we focus on ourselves and we pay attention to the detail that will enable us to combat their plans. It’s all really up to us to focus on ourselves and stick to the plan.”
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