'There's not much difference between the guys who are here and the ones on their way to New Zealand'
Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth has shrugged off any suggestion that South Africa are fielding a second-string line-up for Saturday’s Rugby Championship match against Australia in Johannesburg.
The big lock will lead a squad featuring a Springbok centurion, three half-centurions and five more players with more than 35 caps, including players who have claimed the SA Rugby player of the year award in three of the last four years.
“We all have a responsibility when we pull on that jersey and that lies with the 23 in South Africa as much as anyone else,” said Etzebeth.
“There’s not much difference between the guys who are here and the ones on their way to New Zealand. I don’t think the team could have been picked much stronger. This is a very strong team we have picked, and I have a lot of confidence in them for Saturday’s Test.”
Etzebeth said that there was competition for every position in the squad before welcoming the three debutants, Rynhardt Elstadt (loose forward), Herschel Jantjies (scrum-half) and Lizo Gqoboka (replacement prop).
“I don’t think the team could have been picked much stronger.” ? One Test centurion ?, three half centurions ? and two SA Rugby Player of the Year winners ? #StrongerTogether @Official_Bozza @ASICS_ZA @FNBSA @CastleLagerSA @LandRoverZA
— Springboks (@Springboks) July 19, 2019
“I’d like to congratulate them and say how much we’re looking forward to seeing them play,” said Etzebeth. “I don’t think I need to say too much about Rynhardt – he is very tough. I’ve never played against him but those who have tell me that he is quite a tough nut.
“I asked Herschel a few weeks ago what he was doing this time last year and he said he was in and out of the Currie Cup mix. I asked him if he ever wondered if he would be playing of the Springbok and in with a chance of going to the World Cup a year later and he said, ‘no way’.
“I’ve seen him grow at the Stormers, he proved what a good rugby player he is and a great scrum-half and I must say I enjoy his company quite a lot off the field as well.”
Etzebeth leads the team for the 12th time: “It’s a massive honour, great to be running out in front once again but it’s not about me. There are lots of guys who have got my back – guys such as Francois Louw, ‘Beast’ (Tendai Mtawarira) and others who have lots of experience. I’m really looking forward to it.”
WATCH: Rassie Erasmus on his South African team selections and his World Cup squad
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