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'He rang me' - The phonecall that buried Etzebeth and Botha's beef

By Ian Cameron
Eben Etzebeth of South Africa A looks on during the match between South Africa A and the British & Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium on July 14, 2021 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Eben Etzebeth has explained how he and former Springbok second row Bakkies Botha have buried the hatchet after their online beef earlier in the year.

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Remarks made by Botha in an interview with Midi Olympique criticised Etzebeth after news that he was leaving Toulon to return to South Africa with Sharks. Bakkies had said of his protégé: ‘“Eben Etzebeth? Incredible fighter, best second row in the world.

“But I regret that he only shows his best face with the Springboks. 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.

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Eben Etzebeth | Rugby Roots
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Eben Etzebeth | Rugby Roots

“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.”

The comments irked Etzebeth, who Tweeted Botha saying: “Next time you want to ENFORCE an opinion, you’ve got my number”. The Tweet was apparently a reference to their Springboks ‘honour code’ that all South African players swear to when making the Springbok debut.

In a wide-ranging interview with Jim Hamilton on RugbyPass’ Rugby Roots, Etzebeth explained what the code was and why he felt that Bakkies had stepped over the line.

“I was surprised in the morning when I woke up,” said the 30-year-old. “Everyone in South Africa starting sending it [the article] to me.

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“Not everyone is always going to be happy with you. There’s always going to be some people who don’t like you or don’t like the way you play. It means a bit more when someone you know or someone you played with for the Springboks says something.

“We as players get quite a lot of grief from fans so when one of your own gives you some s***. I was a bit angry, surprised, and disappointed, in the comments. I thought I’ll just put something out there.

“We spoke after that and all is sorted. No hard feelings after that.

“Bakkies rang me, and we spoke and he said it was taken out of context a bit. I also read the article. We solved it and when we see each other in South Africa again we’ll have a beer.”

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Etzebeth explained that he felt that Bakkies had breached the Springboks code.

“It’s just a code of honour. The day you make your debut for the Springboks, you obviously get your blazer and there’s a nice celebration of you making your debut. You also get this piece of paper, which the coach will read to you.

“It’s about respecting the jersey and the guys in the jersey. Quite a nice thing to have.

“When I retire one day I won’t go around saying things about fellow Boks, so that’s why I was taken off guard by the comments,” Etzebeth concluded on the matter.

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