Toulon (France) (AFP)
While Eben Etzebeth gets back in shape and tries to concentrate on helping Toulon to finish strongly the Top 14, he nevertheless thinks of the “big” tour of the Lions in South Africa.
The 29-year-old Springbok lock has suffered from injuries and illnesses this season.
“The season has been difficult because of the Covid-19 and I have had a few injuries,” he told AFP.
Etzebeth missed half a dozen Top 14 games before returning, healing yet another finger he broke in training in April, as a substitute against Montpellier on May 11. He then made his debut in Clermont on May 15. Toulon, inconstant all season, lost both games.
Two laps from the end, they cling to the sixth and last place in the dams, in front of the Stade Français in the tie-break, Castres and Lyon being only two points behind.
“We just want to go into the last two games and play well, have a win and put ourselves in the best possible position to be in the top six,” he said.
“Once we’re in the top six it’s a whole different competition. There are only three games left and it’s knockout rugby. “
But reaching the final, which is scheduled for June 25, would delay his return to South Africa, where the Springboks are expected to start a two-test run against Georgia on the weekend of July 3.
“It’s a decision Springbok’s coaches will have to make,” Etzebeth said. “I will go back in time. I don’t know if they will want to play against me, if I was to play in the final the week before. “
The Georgia matches are a warm-up for a three-game series against the British and Irish Lions from Cape Town on July 24.
South Africa have not played a test since beating England 32-12 in the World Cup final in Yokohama on November 2, 2019. Etzebeth started that match and played for an hour to collect his 85th Springbok cap.
“I’ll be ready for the Springboks,” Etzebeth said.
“If they want to choose me, I’ll be happy to play with them again. We haven’t played together since the World Cup. It would be great to be a part of that again. “
– ‘Massif’ –
A Lions tour is “massive,” he added.
“After the World Cup, it’s the second most important thing as a South African rugby player. We’re all excited, looking forward to it. “
“They only come once in your life, every 12 years. A huge thing for all of us in South Africa. “
South Africa will defend their World Cup in France in 2023 but Etzebeth said that did not influence his decision last summer to extend his contract at Toulon until 2024.
“If I hadn’t enjoyed life in Toulon and it was a bad place to play, I wouldn’t have stayed just because the World Cup was going to be here. “
“The World Cup here in 2023 is just a bonus. ”
The easing of coronavirus restrictions in France means that when Toulon hosts the top-flight Bordeaux-Begles on Saturday, 1,000 fans will be able to attend.
“Obviously it would be great to have the fans back, but it’s the guys on the pitch who have to make the difference,” he said.
“If you wait for the fans to wake you up for a game, you’re in the wrong sport. ”
# photo1 In 2019, shortly before the World Cup, Etzebeth was accused of racially assaulting and abusing and pointing a gun at a homeless man in Langebaan, North Cape.
Etzebeth denies the allegations and, although various investigations have been opened, has not been charged.
“I hope all the lies will end very soon,” he said.
© 2021 AFP