South Africa

No extra pressure on Boks going into World Cup as champs — Etzebeth

Star lock Eben Etzebeth doesn’t believe that there is any extra pressure on the Springboks or that they have a target on their back as they attempt to defend their World Cup title in France over September and October.

At a Bok presser ahead of their final World Cup warm-up match against the All Blacks at Twickenham on Friday night, Etzebeth was asked whether teams would be out to get the Boks but the team’s enforcer believes that the other teams will be worrying about themselves.

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“All the teams want to win the World Cup. That was our plan for 2019 and that is our plan this year. Some people say there is more pressure for us and that teams will be targeting us. I don’t think that’s the case,” said Etzebeth.

“Each team just wants it really badly. I think if you ask any of the teams that are competing they don’t care about us, they just want to win the World Cup.

“Do we put pressure on ourselves? Of course we do; we did that in 2019 as well. We want to walk away at the end of October with the trophy and the other teams want to do the same.

“So I don’t think winning in 2019 puts us under any extra pressure. But I do feel that we put pressure on ourselves to go out there and win it again.”

Balancing act

The Boks face a big balancing act in their game against the All Blacks on Friday as they will be looking to go all out against their old foes, while also hoping to emerge from the match without any injuries or bans as the World Cup is just over two weeks away.

Just last year the All Blacks were under immense pressure and on a terrible run of form, which saw coach Ian Foster’s job hanging by a thread, however after they bounced back from a big defeat against the Boks in Mbombela to upset them at Ellis Park, they have gone on a brilliant winning run.

They are thus one of the form sides heading into the World Cup and Etzebeth is happy to see them back at their best.

“I think they are just playing really good rugby at the moment. Last year there were maybe one or two games where they weren’t at their best. But all rugby teams in the world go through a dip,” admitted Etzebeth.

“We always knew they were going to come back because they are one of the better teams in the world. So it is great to see them doing well.

“This World Cup coming up is probably going to be one of the most competitive World Cups there has ever been because there are so many teams doing well and putting up their hands to go on and win it.”

Unique experience

Taking on their biggest rivals at Twickenham, Etzebeth is looking forward to the unique experience and the vibe hopefully brought by a large contingent of expat South Africans that will turn up to cheer them on.

“The guys feel great when they drive to the stadium and see all of the Springbok jerseys when you arrive. Also when you’re in the stadium you hear the people cheer when you do well,” said Etzebeth.

“That is always a boost on the field. We don’t make a big thing out of it but we love it when the fans turn out in their numbers when we are playing on a neutral ground or overseas. When there is a whole block of South Africans cheering for us it is really great to see.”