Eben Etzebeth's hard-fought battle with Toulon over request to hunker down in South Africa
Two France-based World Cup winners are hunkering down during the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa – but under very different circumstances.
While Cheslin Kolbe was holidaying in South Africa when the pandemic restrictions were first introduced in France and told by Toulouse to stay put in Cape Town, Eben Etzebeth had a number of requests to take a break from Toulon and return home to the Cape turned down by his club.
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Like all over players in France, Etzebeth was put on partial unemployment on March 16 and he soon informed Toulon about his discomfort about living through the coronavirus crisis in France away from his South African family.
Midi Olympique have reported that Etzebeth, who helped the Springboks win the World Cup final against England last November, asked on numerous occasions if could he head home only to be repeatedly refused permission.
Like other Top 14 clubs, Toulon wanted its players to remain in the locality, especially their overseas contingent for fear that travel restrictions might make it more difficult to get them back in the mix once the current lockdown restrictions are lifted and rugby can resume.
Etzebeth, though, was nothing but persistent and after receiving support from the South African rugby federation to return home, Toulon finally gave him the permission to do so at the beginning of last week.
He is now following an individual training programme in South Africa, but the club are concerned about his return date. The spread of the virus in South Africa means it is a country that is many weeks behind what has happened in France and containment measures could see Etzebeth unable to return to Toulon when he needs to.
Etzebeth is currently undergoing a period of quarantine in the house he shares with his brother and the rest of his family.
In contrast, Kolbe’s decision to hunker down in South Africa with his family was quickly approved by Toulouse, who felt it wasn’t worth the hassle of having the winger travel back to France from holiday before it went into lockdown.
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