Eben Etzebeth: Springbok great Bakkies Botha criticises early return to South Africa

Dylan Coetzee

Springbok legend Bakkies Botha is unhappy with Eben Etzebeth’s early departure from Toulon as the Springbok is set to join the Sharks from next season.

Etzebeth took over the mantle of the enforcer in the Springboks camp from Botha, who was infamous for imposing himself on the game.

Early return

The 30-year-old confirmed his departure earlier this week in what is a mutual decision, with Etzebeth citing “personal reasons” as the motivator for his early departure. This comes not long after Toulon president Bernard Lemaitre labelled the Springbok as a “handicap” to the club.

Regardless of the facts, Botha is still disappointed with the current Springbok. The former second-rower had a fruitful spell of his own at Toulon, winning a Champions Cup, a Challenge Cup and a Top 14 title in just four years.

In conversation with Midi Olympique, Botha felt the Top 14 did not suit Etzebeth and that contributed to his struggles.

“Eben Etzebeth? Incredible fighter, best second-row in the world,” Botha said.

“But I regret that he only shows his best face with the Springboks.

“In Toulon, he is still a little injured, concussed and in the end, never plays.

“Obviously, he was not made for France and he will turn his back on the problems the club went through to return to South Africa.”

The parallels between the enforcers are striking and it would Botha maintains that he is fond of Etzebeth but remains disappointed.

“It’s disappointing. I love Eben, I repeat,” Botha said.

“But you can’t say when you arrive in Toulon: ‘I want to be champion of France’ and leave later without having marked the club in one way or another.

“His first season was not bad but it is not enough. When you recruit a world-class player, it’s for him to make a difference.”

READ MORE: Ireland coach not keen on having Springboks in Six Nations