Springboks star Eben Etzebeth has earned praise from Toulon head coach Patrice Collazo for his role in their side’s 29-23 victory over fellow title contenders Racing 92 in Paris on Sunday.

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Starting in the Toulon second row alongside Samoan international Brian Alainu’uese, the 85-test South African starred as the four-time French champions closed the gap between them and Racing 92 to just four points near the summit of the Top 14 table.

The match was Etzebeth’s first since he was ruled out of action for over four weeks due to a head knock sustained in Toulon’s Champions Cup win over Sale in December, leaving Collazo impressed with his star man’s efforts.

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“He played at the level we expect. Tonight I saw a very good Eben Etzebeth, like I saw very good French internationals and very good non-internationals,” Collazo told reporters post-match, as per France 24.

“When there are individual performances on a collective basis like that, a team performance follows,” he added.

While Etzebeth was lathered in praise, the 29-year-old – who hasn’t played test rugby since South Africa’s 2019 World Cup final win over England in Yokohama – will be thankful for Racing 92 midfielder Virimi Vakatawa’s first half mishap which cost his side dearly in the grand scheme of the match.

Vakatawa, the blockbusting Fijian-born French international, blew a golden opportunity to score a try in the 21st minute when Toulon wing knocked the ball out of his hands inside the opposition in-goal area.

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Had Vakatawa dotted the ball down and had his try converted, Racing 92 could have claimed a one-point victory to put them in second place in the Top 14.

Instead, the visitors walked away from Paris La Defense Arena with all four competition points, putting them in good stead for their next scheduled fixture against Stade Francais next week.

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