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Etzebeth picks the Lions locks he expects to face in July with the Springboks

By Liam Heagney

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Springboks talisman Eben Etzebeth has named the Lions locks he anticipates he will be facing during the three-game Test series which starts next July. The 29-year-old is currently sidelined because of a training ground finger injury picked up the other week at Toulon. 

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However, he expects to be back in Top 14 action next month and will be primed for the challenge the Lions will present in what will be the first matches for South Africa since they won the 2019 World Cup final versus England. There is much speculation about the identity of the 36-strong squad Warren Gatland will name on May 6 for the tour that will commence with a June 26 pre-departure warm-up match versus Japan at Murrayfield. 

Etzebeth has now joined in that speculation and named the three second rows he expects to line up in opposition against him and his South African teammates when the Test series kicks off on July 24. Appearing on the latest episode of The Rugby Pod, Etzebeth was asked whom he will likely play against at lock. He replied: “Probably Alun Wyn Jones. Warren Gatland, the coach, has coached Alun Wyn, who was captain of Wales for a long time, so I’m pretty sure he will be No5.

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Wales and Northampton out-half Dan Biggar guests on RugbyPass All Access
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Wales and Northampton out-half Dan Biggar guests on RugbyPass All Access

“Then No4 will probably be (Maro) Itoje, with a guy like James Ryan on the bench. It makes it easy for us to start looking at their locks. It’s going to be a tough battle. There are some warm-up games for them and a few of their guys would want to play themselves into the squad, but for me at the moment it [selection] will probably go that way.”

Asked specifically about the hype surrounding England forward Itoje, Etzebeth quipped, “What hype? He is a good player. I’ve watched him play, played against him a few times. He is a world-class second-rower.

“Good player and someone when you do your analysis you probably have to look at for an extra 30, 40 minutes because he gets around the park and has got a big work rate. There is big hype, as you said, but for me, he is a good player, a good lock and he is always good to play against.”

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Reflecting on how the Springboks own lock stocks are shaping up ahead of the Lions, Etzebeth added: “For us, if all goes well the same guys will be there that was at the World Cup, those four locks. Everyone will be ready. RG (Snyman) is back soon, back in training, and probably will have a game pretty soon. Franco Mostert never gets injured, he just keeps on going. And Lood (de Jager), he will definitely be there. He has had a couple of injuries where he has had to be back for important games and he never disappointed to make it back so he will also be there.”

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Etzebeth picks the Lions locks he expects to face in July with the Springboks

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