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What Etzebeth said in private after Ireland loss shows where Boks are

By Josh Raisey
South Africa's lock Eben Etzebeth reacts at the end of the France 2023 Rugby World Cup Pool B match between South Africa and Ireland at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris on September 23, 2023. (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU / AFP) (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Ireland may have come away with a 13-8 win over the world champions South Africa in their pool stage meeting on Saturday, but Andy Farrell’s side were unsuccessful in denting the Springboks’ confidence for the rest of the World Cup.


The top two sides in the world produced a pool stage match for the ages at the Stade de France, which brought all the physicality and ferocity one would expect from the best teams in the world. Despite being on the wrong end of the scoreline, the three-time champions’ confidence has not been shaken in their pursuit of retaining the Webb Ellis Cup.

Jim Hamilton gave an insight into how the Boks were feeling after the match on The Rugby Pod this week, where he revealed a conversation he had in private with Eben Etzebeth.

“Shall I tell you honestly what Eben Etzebeth said to me?” he said to Andy Goode and Andy Rowe. “I just said to him physical game, and he was like ‘we’ll get them again if they make it through.’ If they make it through, that’s what he said.”


This not only exhibits the supreme confidence that Etzebeth and his teammates have at this World Cup, but it also highlights what they think of Ireland’s chances of making it to the final (which is the only occasion where they could meet the Springboks again). Moreover, this perhaps shows what Etzebeth thinks of the All Blacks, who are now Ireland’s likely opponents in the quarter-finals.

Hamilton went on to discuss with Goode which team now has the psychological advantage for the rest of the tournament and whether the loss will affect Jacques Nienaber’s side mentally.

“You talk about the world champions,” he said. “You talk about the second best team, the top two best teams in the world, it’s the psychological part I don’t think affects South Africa. If they get the kicks at goal, if they get that lineout drive going at the end of the game and potentially a different referee, it looks very different. But Ireland have beaten them now. Ireland have beaten the All Blacks in a Test series. Ireland are Grand Slam champions. That’s the one and they’re not going to face them now until the final now.


“I think South Africa have this arrogance, and rightly so because they’re world champions, that they can beat anyone.”

Goode added: “I think that’s the South African mindset of ‘okay, listen, we lost to Ireland and they took it to us physically’ – they normally beast teams South Africa, but their mentality and mindset is always ‘right, that’s the challenge that has been set, let’s show them what South African rugby is all about.’ They’ll have no problem bouncing back from that, the South Africans, it will actually motivate them more, I reckon.”

On a personal level for Etzebeth, the 120kg lock suffered the ignominy of being picked up and held in the air by Ireland winger James Lowe, which Hamilton said he will feel “embarrassed” about.

“He’s looking at that and he’s embarrassed. He’ll feel embarrassed, he’ll be raging, because that’s the one image that’s come out of that game.”


Etzebeth is not the only person in the South African camp that remains unruffled after the loss in Paris though. Both head coach Nienaber and captain Siya Kolisi laughed off the question whether their side can still win the World Cup after the match, drawing inspiration from their pool stage loss to the All Blacks in 2019 before going on to win.



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