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The 124kg 'enforcer' Matfield tips to 'take over' from Etzebeth

By Josh Raisey
Eben Etzebeth of South Africa acknowledges the crowd after the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between South Africa and Scotland at Stade Velodrome on September 10, 2023 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Leinster knew what was coming their way in their Investec Champions Cup quarter-final against holders La Rochelle, and they prepared accordingly.

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It is not necessarily hard to predict what is going to come from a team that boasts literal and figurative rugby giants in the form of Will Skelton and Uini Atonio, weighing 290kg combined, but the last two Champions Cup finals have given Leinster an extra taste of what the Top 14 powerhouse bring.

Leo Cullen and Jacques Nienaber fielded a team that would confront Ronan O’Gara’s side head-on, with 124kg lock Jason Jenkins coming in for his first start in over a month. He repaid their faith handsomely.

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Sam Whitelock on the hurt of the 2023 RWC final

Sam Whitelock on the narrow loss to the Springboks. Watch the full interview on RugbyPass TV now.

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In a display where La Rochelle’s power up front was completely neutralised, the South African was at the heart of Leinster’s cause as they won 40-13. Only one Leinster player made more tackles than the lock, despite coming off the field with half an hour to play.

It was a display that would have caught the eye of South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus.

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Jenkins has just one cap to his name in what was an almost unrecognisable Springboks team against Wales in the USA in 2018.

Injuries have not helped chances, but he has been in Springbok camps since 2018 which shows he is on the radar. His move to the Sharks at the end of the season will see him move from on the radar to smack-bang in Erasmus’ face week in, week out.

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What’s more, he has recently received an endorsement from Victor Matfield. As far as endorsements go for a South African lock, they don’t get much better than one from the legendary second row and the Springboks’ most-capped player ever.

Speaking at a BKT United Rugby Championship media call recently, the Bulls great recalled coaching Jenkins and fellow Springbok lock RG Snyman as teenagers when his career had come to an end and their Bulls career was blossoming.

“When I retired, I coached him and RG Snyman as 19-year-old boys and I must say I was very impressed,” he said.

“He only started playing rugby as a 16-year-old, and just the skillset, the work rate, he’s a big boy, a strong boy that likes to get on the front foot.”

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The Springboks are not exactly suffering from a dearth of second rows currently, but Matfield was nevertheless surprised Jenkins failed to make the World Cup last year, but is backing him to break back into the national set-up in the future. Not only that, but he actually sees him as Eben Etzebeth’s heir in the South Africa No4 jersey.

He added: “I actually thought last year he would have been in the Springboks squad for the World Cup as well. I was very surprised when he didn’t make it.

“He’s coming back to South Africa, I think we’ll see him in a Springboks jersey pretty soon and he’s probably a guy that might take over from Eben Etzebeth as that hard worker, enforcer, just being in your face and getting back to partnering RG Snyman. Both of them are very good mates as well.

“I think he’s a fantastic player. He’s got a very high work rate, good skill set, and he likes to get stuck in as well. He’s that real No4 type of forward that you would like in your team.”

Jenkins is only four years Etzebeth’s junior, so their careers will largely overlap. But a four-year age gap means the Leinster man may have an extra World Cup cycle in him.

Crucially, with his solitary cap, he has not been ravaged by the demands of Test rugby, meaning there is a chance his career could go well into his 30s. Deon Fourie has shown in recent years that your age is in no way a barrier to entry for selection.

In Matfield’s eyes it is a case of when, rather than if, Jenkins gets into the Springboks squad, and when he does, he is tipping him for big things.

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Abe 2 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

Not a fan of your picks. McReight is good at club level but he is too small for international level and has consistently disappointed there. Better to go for larger guys. Kemeney, Valentini, Hooper, Leota, Samu, Swinton, etc. Aalatoa and Nonga are woeful scrummagers and don’t offer much around the field. Wallabies will not win if the scrum falls to pieces. The fact that Faamissli hasn’t been developed is a tragedy. Need a scrum that doesn’t give away penalties. So looks like a Talakai maybe instead. Best scrummagers need to be selected. McDermott runs the ball too much and doesn’t fit into a structured attack like Schmidts. Gets isolated too often. Ok off the bench late but not for 60 mins. Goal kicking has to be one of the top 3 points for a 10 so that does in Gordon and O’Connor. Be better off going for lynagh on that front. Donaldson and Noah seem to be doing best of the established names. QC a better mentor type guy than OConnor as well if he’s playing. Daugunu has been the most consistent 13 and breaks the line a lot so must be in the squad. Joost has also been good. Richie Arnold playing well for Toulouse and is a preeminent lineout jumper so needs to be in. Latu also playing well for La Rochelle and is better scrummager than the Aussie choices so should be in. The big guy at the Tahs Amataroso I think it is needs to be developed as well. Otherwise the team will be too small. Hodge is a better choice at fullback than Wright. Latter makes too many mistakes. Not sure if Hodge available.

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Turlough 6 hours ago
Four Leinster talking points after latest Champions Cup final loss

First of all: hats off to Toulouse an outstanding performance. Duponts kicking was phenomenal. Twice he challenged Keenan with amazing clearances from his 22 in extra time. Result was territory deep in Leinster half in the early part of extra time which lead to 2 penalties and the game. Remember also his two 50:22s? Now to Willis/Dupont. ANY slight isolation by a Leinster player resulted in a turnover penalty. How many turnovers in the Toulouse 22? Leinster’s defense was immense, they had opportunities in attack but they honestly looked like they had not spent enough time passing the ball in the training in the weeks preceding the final. Game management was poor. Toulouse’s scrum had crumbled. At 15-15 Leinster had a scrum advantage in a position that would be kickable for a scrum penalty. Leinster played on and missed a long range drop goal. You MUST take the scrum surely? Win penalty and its a shot at goal to win with time up. No penalty and you can attack and drop goal whatever. The distance from sideline penalties from Byrne was shocking. If you are kicking the line you must get close to that 5 metre line. How many times were Leinster forced to maul from 10-15 metres? Toulouse KNEW Leinster was going to kick and maul and clearly spent considerable training time neutralizing thuis threat. The maul was starting too far out, Toulouse were able to stop the heart of the drive. You must change tack and start kicking for goals. That said it always felt like Toulouse were the potent team on the day with Leinster under pressure and chasing. Even with their backline completely disrupted, Toulouse found a way. 9 Wins in their last 9 finals. Leinster will be there next year. But so will Toulouse/Northhampton etc. A great era of club rugby.

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