‘Eben Etzebeth a handicap for the club’ – Toulon president

Planet Rugby

Toulon president Bernard Lemaitre has referred to Springbok enforcer Eben Etzebeth as a “handicap” to the Top 14 club due to the lock being expensive and often unavailable through injury and international commitments.

Lemaitre addressed all Toulon’s issues regarding player recruitment ahead of the 2022/23 season, taking aim at Etzebeth and Argentina back-row Facundo Isa in a comprehensive interview with French regional newspaper Var-Matin.

The Springbok stalwart has been on Toulon’s payroll since 2019, and Lemaitre seems to be waiting for a return on his investment.

Recruitment concerns

“There is a double problem in recruiting: the Salary Cap and the JIFFs (French-reared players),” he said. “You can’t do just anything, so I pay special attention to the situation of internationals because they can be an opportunity or a handicap. In this case, players like Eben Etzebeth and Facundo Isa are a clear handicap for the club.

“The policy of the XV of France is very clear and we know that some players like Gros or Villière will be called up regularly. While for foreigners it is different. I spoke with Bernard Laporte who agrees with me: the League should work with World Rugby to prevent foreign countries from coming to the Top 14 supermarket to take the players they need for their selection.

“Or, if they do, there should be some compensation. These players get paid, cost the club full, and are used by someone else. This, even at the level of labor law, does not exist. There is a problem to be resolved.”

Etzebeth suffered his third concussion in a year during South Africa’s final Autumn Nations Series encounter against England last November. Toulon announced that the lock would be ruled out for three months as per concussion management protocol of the National Rugby League (LNR).

The 2019 World Cup winner will return to action at the end of February as he looks to add to his limited appearances for the French side.