Etzebeth has unfinished business before leaving Stormers
Playing the Crusaders ls like facing the All Blacks, says Stormers lock
Cape Town - Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth says he has unfinished business with the franchise before he turns his attention to a move to France after the current Super Rugby campaign.
In late 2018 French club Toulon announced that Etzebeth would join them‚ although Western Province have made no official proclamations on the move.
The seemingly rudderless WP hierarchy acted reacted angrily after Toulon’s president Mourad Boudjellal made the announcement‚ threatening to “write letters” and complain about protocol not being followed.
Etzebeth tried to skirt a direct question about the move on Monday. The Stormers are preparing to take on defending champions the Crusaders at Newlands on Saturday.
“I’m not thinking about the future at all‚” Etzebeth said. “For me it’s the challenge of facing the Crusaders this weekend that I am thinking about and a little further along‚ about staying in with a chance for the playoffs.
“We are going to have to win most‚ if not all of our remaining five games to make the quarterfinals. That’s what I’m focused on.”
The Stormers have four home games in their final five fixtures and need to go on a winning run after losing six of their 11 matches so far this season.
The Crusaders are well on top of the standings and are still the benchmark for all teams.
They thrashed the Bulls at Loftus last week but struggled to a home draw against the Sharks the week before that. Etzebeth though‚ wasn’t about to judge the Crusaders on either of those games in isolation.
“We won’t look at the Crusaders performances against the Sharks or Bulls as a reference point‚ but rather at their performances over the season as a whole‚” Etzebeth said.
“They are the most difficult challenge you can have in Super Rugby. Playing against them is like playing for the Springboks against the All Blacks.
“We know it will be tough‚ but everyone in our team will be up for the game.
“The Crusaders line speed is something you have to adapt to‚ but you never know — they might come with a completely different plan this weekend.
“You have to expect anything. On the day any team can beat another. We will look at how we performed against them last year — and other games this year — to see where we went wrong and where we were good.
“We need to go into knockout mode already because things in our conference are so tight. We still have to play against two sides in our conference and it will come down to the last weekend‚ so we need to pick up victories now.”
The giant lock and former Bok captain admitted that the challenge of facing the Crusaders‚ and other top New Zealand sides‚ was what made rugby special.
“This is the type of game you play rugby for‚” he said. “Tests against the All Blacks and Wallabies and Super Rugby matches against the Crusaders and Hurricanes are what we play for.
“I wish I could say the Boks’ success over the All Blacks in Wellington last year would help us‚ but I can’t. It’s two different sides in two different competitions at different times of the year.
“If we beat the Crusaders‚ it would be a big box ticked. Knowing you can beat the top team will give you belief that you can beat any team. Unfortunately I haven’t been in a team that has beaten the Crusaders yet.”