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A painful training ground clash with Etzebeth still haunts Kolisi

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Francois Nel/World Rugby via Getty Images)

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Springboks skipper Siya Kolisi has recalled the terrible day when he was left wincing in pain after his friend Eben Etzebeth targeted him on a number of occasions during training at the Stormers. The club careers of the inspirational South African Test team duo overlapped in Cape Town, Kolisi spending a decade there playing before his switch to the Sharks while Etzebeth was there for six Super Rugby campaigns before linking up with Toulon. 

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Together, they helped their country win the World Cup in Japan in 2019. However, while they are great pals, that friendship hasn’t meant everything between them was always sweetness and light. 

Making a guest appearance in this week’s RugbyPass Offload, Kolisi admitted he isn’t a fan of contract training and he recounted the bruising session where Etzebeth took great pleasure lining him up and clattering into him.

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Siya Kolisi – we are joined by Springbok rugby royalty | RugbyPass Offload | EP 31
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Siya Kolisi – we are joined by Springbok rugby royalty | RugbyPass Offload | EP 31

It was while talking about the size of some people’s hands that Kolisi offers up his vignette about Etzebeth when they were preparing at training for a Stormers match. “That is how I feel every time I shake Eben’s hand or some of my teammates,” said Kolisi in reply to a comment on the show about big hands. 

“How are we the same age or how am I older than you and you are so big? Worse is when I play against him or I trained against Eben. I will never forget it. Cheslin Kolbe was injured. We were both playing for the Stormers and we had full contact and I don’t like full contact in training. 

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“Eben got the ball. We are so tight, we are like besties. But he gets the ball and he looks at me and I know that look. He looks at me and I knew he was coming. He went on top of me and I’m okay, I’ll get him when I get him. Then he came the second time and all I could hear was Cheslin Kolbe laughing. I was so angry, I chased him. He wasn’t training that day but I chased him. (With Eben) it’s where do I tackle you?

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“The training is so hard and the guys are so big. He came in hard that day. Afterwards, he wanted to talk and I’m sad, ‘Why would you do that to your friend? Like, you’re my mate’. I was so sad. It took me a couple of days to get over it.”

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