The South African highlights one of the mouthwatering duels to look forward to in the first Test between the Springboks and Argentina at Ellis Park on Saturday.
SPRINGBOKS TALIS MAN: EBEN ETZEBETH
Eben Etzebeth’s standing in world rugby is beyond compare. He’s won all there is to win, and still his thirst for success goes unquenched.
There were concerns over whether he will make a return to game in time for the Springboks’ Rugby Championship campaign, after he suffered a horrid shoulder injury while on duty for the Sharks early in April. With an estimated recovery of 14 weeks, Etzebeth looked a sure bet to head into the Springboks’ World Cup campaign cold.
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However, he has shown that notion to be ill-informed. The 31-year-old regained fitness sooner than expected and he has reclaimed his place in the Springbok team.
Etzebeth, who was understandably a bit off his game against the All Blacks due to the death of his father, will play in his 112th Test this weekend, making him the fourth most capped Springbok of all time (ahead of John Smit who has 111 caps).
His overall contribution during the Rugby Championship showed his enduring importance to the Boks’ success. His tactical nous at the lineout remains unrivalled and he’ll need to be at his best if the Springboks are to maintain their stranglehold on their annual fixtures against Los Pumas.
ARGENTINA’S ACE: TOMÁS LAVANINI
On the opposite side of the field on Saturday is a legend in his own right. Having amassed almost 80 Test appearances for Argentina, Lavanini is just as experienced and equally as hot-headed as Etzebeth.
When focused and locked in on the game, Lavanini possesses the ability to dismantle the Springbok lineout and disrupt their breakdown, and in turn, their meticulous game plan.
As two of world rugby’s most explosive and short-fused giants collide, this tasty battle could well come down to which one of Etzebeth and Lavanini manages to stay calm and composed during a duel which is sure to be loaded with provocation.