There is a strong chance that England will defeat South Africa this weekend and advance to the Rugby World Cup final, but there is no question that the Springboks will be a difficult challenge for Steve Borthwick’s team.
Last weekend, England upset Fiji 30-24 to advance to the semifinals, and South Africa defeated tournament hosts France in one of the best games. Some people consider the 29-28 victory over France by Rassie Erasmus’ team to be the greatest rugby match they have ever seen.
However, with the victory against Fiji now firmly in the past, England has been gearing up all week to face the Springboks, the team that defeated them in the Rugby World Cup final in Japan four years ago. On that particular day, South Africa’s pack physically outclassed England, enabling them to defeat England 32-12 to earn their third World Cup championship.
One player who proved to be instrumental in helping the Springboks to achieve World Cup glory was the man dubbed the ‘scariest man in rugby’, Eben Etzebeth. At 31-years-old, Etzebeth, who stands at an imposing 6ft8in, has made 117 appearances for South Africa.
Against France, Etzebeth was at his destructive best, helping to force a turnover in the first half that led to speedster Cheslin Kolbe’s counter-attack try, before dotting down in the second half to score what proved to be a pivotal try in helping South Africa win the game. In Etzebeth, South Africa have a physically imposing freak of nature, who is not afraid to get up in the faces of his opponents for a fracas on the pitch.
England’s rugby team will be aiming for glory in France, with Umbro supplying their kits for the tournament. It is the first time that the supplier have been handed the chance to produce the kits, with a traditional white home shirt emblazoned with the iconic red rose.
However, once the dust had settled after the game, Etzebeth and Alaalatoa were all smiles, sharing a beer in the changing rooms post match. It probably also helped that South Africa won the game 24-8.
But it wasn’t the first time in recent memory either the South African lock has seen red either. Back in 2017, when Etzebeth sparked a huge touchline brawl when he went after Australian full-back Israel Folau after he tackled his team-mate by pulling him down by his hair.
Etzebeth, who was captaining the Springboks on that occasion, took matters into his own hands and pushed Folau into touch before slapping Kurtley Beale, an Australian player, in the face.
In an effort to defuse the situation, players from both sides joined the brawl after the incident. As a result of Folau’s high tackle on winger Dillyn Leyds, Etzebeth was given a warning by referee Ben O’Keeffe but was not penalized.