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The All Black that hit Eben Etzebeth 'the hardest' he's been hit

By Ian Cameron
South Africa's Eben Etzebeth waits for the line out during the Rugby Championship match between New Zealand and South Africa at Albany Stadium (AFP PHOTO / MICHAEL BRADLEY (MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP via Getty Images)

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Springboks enforcer Eben Etzebeth has revealed that a former All Blacks player hit him the hardest in his rugby career to date.

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Etzebeth, who lifted the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and vanquished the British & Irish Lions last summer in South Africa, has played against the toughest players the game has had to offer across the span of his career.

The 30-year-old is so competitive that he admits he struggles to acknowledge or credit the players that have tested him the most.

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Eben Etzebeth | Rugby Roots
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Eben Etzebeth | Rugby Roots

“It’s always good up against players like Brodie Retallick, Maro Itoje, James Ryan and Alun Wyn Jones, and yourself [Jim Hamilton] back in 2013,” Etzebeth told Jim Hamilton, who caught up with his former foe in the most recent episode of RugbyPass’ Rugby Roots. “It’s alsways good playing against world-class locks.

“For me, what’s really nice when you’re back in South Africa, it’s extra fun to go up against friends,” noted Etzebeth. “For me, back when I was with the Stormers, Marcell Coetzee when he was with the Sharks, somehow we’d always try to look for each other and run into each other.

“The same when I played against Beast [Tendai Mtawarira]. He actually gave me some s*** after the game. He told me ‘Why do you keep running at me?’

“It’s nice playing against friends but then there’s playing against guys that you don’t like that much, there’s always a bit of extra spice.”

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Etzebeth said he refused to acknowledge who was the best player he played against, when asked who was the best of the best of the opposition he’d faced.

“I think because of the personality I have, I wouldn’t be able to say that!” joked the 6’7, 123kg lock. “I can’t give you one.”

The World Cup winner did however reveal which player had hit him the hardest and it wasn’t a forward.

“Back in the day when I went up against Ma’a Nonu. He hit me once and he just hit me from the side.

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“I thought it was one of their props hitting me, [then] I looked at him. He was quite a hard man. Probably the guy who tackled me the hardest.”

Etzebeth said he’s happy he doesn’t have to go up against his fellow Springboks.

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“I wouldn’t ever want to play against the Springboks! If you look at guys like Siya, Pieter Steph and Duane, Bongi, Kitshoff, all those guys.”

Playing the All Blacks and England are standout teams he likes to go up against and measure himself against.

“After playing England in the World Cup final, there’s always going to be that extra spice in that game.

“You can’t forget about the French. They’re playing pretty well. They’re having an unbelievable year so far. We playing them in November so that’s a match-up we’re really looking forward to.”

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