Bakkies Botha says he is 'disappointed' with Eben Etzebeth
In many ways a protégé of Botha, if it not a metaphorical descendent in the Springboks engine room, Etzebeth this week confirmed that he was returning to South Africa, exiting his contract with RCT a season early after an injury-plagued spell in the south of France.
It appears to have been a mutual break-up, with Toulon president Bernard Lemaître stating last month that having a player of Etzebeth’s calibre and pay grade injured was in effect a ‘handicap’ for the Top 14 side.
Even in that context, Botha wasn’t convinced by the decision. Botha famously spent four years at the club, winning a Heineken Champions Cup, a Challenge Cup and a Top 14 title with the side.
“Eben Etzebeth? Incredible fighter, best second row in the world. But I regret that he only shows his best face with the Springboks,” Botha told Midi Olympique. “In Toulon, he is still a little injured, concussed and in the end, never plays.
“Obviously, he was not made for France and he will turn his back on the problems the club went through to return to South Africa.”
Bakkies hung up his Springboks boots in 2014, just two years after Etzebeth won his first South African cap. The similarities between the pair are obvious: massive, athletic locks whose hyper-aggressive aggressive approach to game strikes fear into opponents.
Yet while Botha says he ‘loves Etzebeth’, he can’t help but feel his spiritual descendent is leaving France with his tail between his legs.
“It’s disappointing. I love Eben, I repeat. But you can’t say when you arrive in Toulon: ‘I want to be champion of France’ and leave some time later without having marked the club in one way or another.
“His first season was not bad but it is not enough. When you recruit a world-class player, it’s for him to make a difference.”
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