Eben Etzebeth. Picture: REUTERS
Eben Etzebeth. Picture: REUTERS

Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth may be one of the more experienced of the national team players‚ but  he knows the captaincy is not something that’s passed around like sugar in a tea room.

A number of senior players such as Duane Vermeulen‚ Handre Pollard and Malcolm Marx could easily stake a claim ahead of next week’s Rugby Championship opener against Australia at Ellis Park.

Regular captain Siya Kolisi will miss part of the Rugby Championship because of injury‚ which pushes Etzebeth into leadership contention. The 75-time capped lock was the Springbok captain during the topsy-turvy 2017 season.

Etzebeth‚ who missed a large chunk of the Stormers’ Super Rugby campaign because of a hand injury‚ is champing at the bit for a Test match opportunity.

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“Siya won’t be ready for the next game‚ but we’ll have to see who is captain next week. I’m excited to be playing Test rugby again. I last played in November‚ but it’s the first game of the season‚” Etzebeth said.

Getting priorities right in 2019 is crucial‚ especially since the Springboks have yet to win the Rugby Championship in this decade.

There is an opportunity to win the Southern Hemisphere tournament each year‚ but the World Cup chance comes once every four years. At 27‚ it is difficult to predict where Etzebeth will be in four years.

Etzebeth, though, said the need to concentrate on one assignment at a time is critical.

Australia may not have had the best three years‚ but they seem to have a tendency of coming good in a World Cup year. They had the Brumbies‚ who beat all the SA teams‚ represent them in the Super Rugby semifinals but the other Australian franchises were more cold than hot.

What happened with the other Australian teams matters little to Etzebeth. “I think they’re going to be a very strong team when we face them next weekend.

“Everyone knows that 2019 is all about the Rugby World Cup and that looms at the back of your mind‚” he said. “At the end of the day‚ when you’re playing for SA next week‚ it’s all about the green and gold. That’s enough motivation to get us up and ready for that Test match‚” Etzebeth said.

“I firmly believe that once you put on your national team jersey‚ a lot of what you’ve done beforehand doesn’t count for much.”