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Etzebeth fires backs at Bakkies Botha following criticism

By Ian Cameron
Eben Etzebeth /Getty Images

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Eben Etzebeth has responded to former Springbok teammate Bakkies Botha, who criticised his protegé in the French press over the weekend.

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Etzebeth is leaving Toulon early and it hasn’t gone down well with Botha, who himself won a Heineken Champions Cup, a Challenge Cup and a Top 14 title while at RC Toulonnais in a productive four season spell at the club during its glory days.

The 42-year-old said he was disappointed with Etzebeth’s early exit from the big-spending French side. Botha said the 30-year-old Rugby World Cup winner hadn’t shown his best side while in the south of France and was leaving the club without the titles he said he wanted to win.

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“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.”

“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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Now Etzebeth has hit back at his former teammate in a pointed tweet, suggesting he should pick up the phone instead of criticising him in the press.

Etzebeth tweeted: “@BakkiesBotha4 – Noted. Next time you want to ENFORCE an opinion, you’ve got my number.#exspringbokteammates #onthoujouerekode”

Clearly Etzebeth didn’t take the criticism well and he might be right to feel aggrieved at Botha’s reproach. Through no fault of his own, Etzebeth spent much of his time at the club on the sideline due to injury, including an enforced concussion layoff.

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As for his exit, RCT President Bernard Lemaître made it clear that the Springbok lock’s services were no longer required when he described having him on the books as a ‘handicap’ for a big club.

Let’s just hope Etzebeth and Botha can bury this hatchet over a beer.

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