Cape Town - Springbok and Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth insists there is a misperception regarding the way he plays the game.
This comes after City Press columnist, Simnikiwe Xabanisa, wrote a piece suggesting Etzebeth needs to tone down his “crazy-eyed routine” and "general penchant for arriving pretty sharply at any how’s-your-father flashpoints".
In an interview with Netwerk24, Etzebeth quipped: “In six years of rugby at senior level I’ve only received one yellow card. If people are trying to provoke me, then it’s clearly not working!
“There are talks that opponents are trying to get under my skin, but maybe it’s me getting under their skins. I may get involved in altercations quite often, but have never landed a punch or afterwards tried to gain revenge by committing a high tackle.”
Sport24’s chief writer, Rob Houwing, disagreed with the notion that Etzebeth is a dirty player.
“I believe that the very devil-eyed hallmark of the player in question is a key part of his motivational make-up, and that if he takes even small, conscious initiatives toward a less confrontational approach you may be stripping him of too much of the natural fire that powers him,” Houwing wrote earlier this week.
Houwing also pointed to Etzebeth’s clean disciplinary record.
“It may surprise you, in fact, to learn just how many times he has been either yellow- or red-carded in a 49-match Super Rugby career for the Stormers spanning five seasons to now from 2012 (he sat out all of the 2014 campaign injured) ... if the annals I have trawled are accurate, not once.
“And if you flip over into his international career, a 54-Test tenure to this point has seen him yellow-carded on a solitary occasion - against Australia at Brisbane last year (also his 50th cap) - and even then it was for the less-than-scandalous offence of not rolling away; he may well have been a fall guy with the Boks on a warning at the time for repeat penalties.
“There was also a semblance of controversy and arguably injustice when, in his maiden Test season in 2012, he was cited after another Wallaby encounter for an “attempted” headbutt - sounds a bit like being half-killed? - on Nathan Sharpe and suspended for a fortnight.
“One stint in the sin bin for the Boks from well over 50 Tests hardly suggests a serial problem, when you consider the gallery of disciplinary skulduggery of a predecessor in a No 4 shirt like Bakkies Botha.”
Meanwhile, Etzebeth will play his 50th Super Rugby game for the Stormers when they face the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.
The imposing 25-year-old has been named Stormers vice-captain for the clash at the Forsyth-Barr Stadium with regular skipper Siya Kolisi returning after being rested last week.
15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Substitutes: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Matt Faddes
15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Jan de Klerk, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.
Substitutes: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Shaun Treeby, 23 Bjorn Basson