Former Springbok lock Mark Andrews is worried about Eben Etzebeth’s commitment at the breakdown area.
While acknowledging that Etzebeth has performed well this season, Andrews feels the 21-year-old isn’t ticking all the boxes a second row forward at the highest level should.
“I would have loved to see Eben Etzebeth play with someone like Bakkies Botha or Victor Matfield,” Andrews told Sports Illustrated Radio on Wednesday.
“He has an incredible talent. The maturity he has been showing in the lineouts has been fantastic and he has a huge amount of confidence in carrying the ball up.
“However, I think that he may be set up by the media, the public and maybe the coaches for a fall later in his career if not sooner in the sense of that he isn’t really doing the job that he should be doing.
“Every single effective pack in world rugby – from international down to club rugby – has one of the second rows who has the ability to bring a physical presence to the game and normally that comes down to ruck time.
“What’s lacking with the Springboks at the moment is we have quite a few players who think they are ball carriers and Etzebeth has been put in that position at Western Province where he has to be a ball carrier.
“However, I think at the Springboks the situation should be different. It worries me that someone like Willem Alberts is hitting more rucks than anyone else in the team, when he is one of our most effective ball carriers.
NOT HITTING RUCKS
“Now we have a guy like Etzebeth standing out a lot of the time waiting to carry the ball up and it has happened a few times already when he’s lost the ball when he’s close to the tryline. I think his role should be to hit rucks and the Springboks need someone like him to own the breakdown.
“The All Blacks have always believed in owning the breakdown, but at the moment – and I have probably watched him more than most because it’s a position I played in – I don’t see him hitting rucks,” Andrews, who played 77 Tests for the Springboks between 1994 and 2001, said.
The former Sharks enforcer feels Etzebeth has the ability to become world class but needs someone to tell him what is lacking.
“He got away with it in the Currie Cup and in Super Rugby where a very physical Stormers pack has allowed him to play a looser game, but at the Springboks it is going to be critical going forward to have a guy like Etzebeth, who ticks all the boxes, to hit the rucks. He actually runs away from breakdowns instead of running towards them.”
Etzebeth, who won the SARU Young Player of the Year award, will pack down alongside Juandré Kruger when the Boks face Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday