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'Tank's a whole lot more dangerous': Eben Etzebeth joins Sharks

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

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Springboks enforcer Eben Etzebeth will join the Durban-based Sharks from Toulon at the end of the current season in Europe. It was July 2020 when the 30-year-old, who arrived in France on a two-year deal following his country’s 2019 World Cup win, extended his deal by a further two years, but that contract will now end a year earlier than planned.  

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It was last weekend when Toulon issued a statement announcing the early departure of Etzebeth for “personal reasons”. It read: “Aware of the difficulties encountered by the player, Toulon took note of this request and accepted it.”

Etzebeth added: “I am sad to have to leave Toulon and my teammates at the end of the season but personal reasons force me to do so. Toulon and its supporters welcomed me… I have the will to give everything with this team until the end of the season to allow Toulon to perform, to move up in the standings and to be ambitious in the Challenge Cup.”

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This early release of Etzebeth from his deal in France paved the way for him to link up with a South African franchise and rather than return to the Stormers, whom he represented in six Super Rugby campaigns, he has opted to join the Durban-based Sharks who announced their new signing on Thursday on social media.

“The tank just got a whole lot more dangerous! Welcome to the family @EbenEtzebeth 🖤 #OurSharksForever,” tweeted the club in a message accompanied by a video. 

It was last month, in an interview with French newspaper Var-Matin, that Toulon president Bernard Lemaitre labelled Etzebeth “a clear handicap” due to his expensive salary and his regular unavailability through international commitments and injury. “There is a double problem in recruiting: the salary cap and the JIFFs [French-reared players],” said Lemaitre at the time.

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“You can’t do just anything, so I pay special attention to the situation of internationals because they can be an opportunity or a handicap. In this case, players like Eben Etzebeth and Facundo Isa are a clear handicap for the club.”

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