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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Lucky enough to call this my job, says groom-to-be Eben Etzebeth on SA Rugby award

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Cape Town — It’s no wonder that Eben Etzebeth is saying that he is “enjoying life and rugby”. Not only was he named the SA Rugby Player of the Year on Tuesday, but he is also getting married to Anlia van Rensburg on Saturday.

To add to the celebrations, Etzebeth’s long-time friend, Springbok prop Frans Malherbe, is also tying the knot on Saturday — to Ingrid van Huyssteen.

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You would’ve thought that the two Bok stalwarts would have discussed their wedding dates, but it was an unavoidable clash.

Nevertheless, Etzebeth got his due reward on Tuesday after missing out on the World Rugby Player of the Year award, which went to Ireland’s Josh van der Flier.

“It’s obviously a privilege, and the names on the trophy, and there are wonderful individuals on there. We all know it’s a team sport … Well done to all the other nominees — they were all fantastic. So many other guys who don’t normally get recognised, but it’s nice to win this trophy for the first time,” Etzebeth said at the SA Rugby offices in Plattekloof.

“It’s quite simple: playing for the Springboks (keeps him going). It’s such an honour representing my country every weekend, and just seeing all the support and just how special it is for the new guys coming into the squad.

“I am lucky enough to call this my job, and what a job we have. I always want to try to get better at it, and it’s an awesome experience.

“I got engaged also last year. And I am getting married this Saturday! That is also probably my biggest achievement yet, getting the best trophy I can get …

“But getting my 100th (Test) and Anlia singing the national anthem that day was also special. Having my family there — my parents and her parents, and all the siblings — made it so much more special.

“And now this trophy … It’s just special getting recognised as an individual in a team sport, but you always put the team first and want the team to do well.”

So, what’s going to happen at the respective weddings? “Frans Malherbe is also getting married this Saturday! So, congratulations to him also. It’s special to, when we get some off time, spend it with family and also doing some important stuff that we are doing now,” said Etzebeth.

“Siya (Kolisi) is going to be at my wedding, and Scarra (Ntubeni) by Frans, and I told them that they must video-call each other during the evening and then Frans and I can wish each other well!

“But the opportunity for us to get married was this weekend, so that we can both have a lekker honeymoon. We wanted to be at each other’s wedding, but I just wish Frans all of the best — he also got an unbelievable wife.”

It’s been a busy time for Etzebeth, who left French club Toulon and joined the Sharks, continued to play a starring role for the Boks, and is now finally on a break ahead of the World Cup.

So, 2023 promises to be an even bigger year for the 110 Test-capped lock, and it would be sweet to clinch yet another Webb Ellis Cup …

“It’s amazing, and I can’t believe that this Saturday is the wedding! Having some off time, and we will relax nicely after that … The last couple of months have been hectic — moving back from France, and our rugby schedules are always very busy,” Etzebeth said.

“Finding a place in Durban, settling down, and then in-between trying to plan a wedding. So, it’s going to be nice to finally marry the woman of my dreams this coming Saturday, and then after that, just enjoying some time at home with her.

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“I’ve always kept my goals close to my heart — I don’t really tell people about it … I have seen many people and players in the past announcing their goals and it never happens.

“So for me, it is being part of the World Cup this season. Firstly playing good rugby for the Sharks, and being selected for South Africa … If that goal of beating the record (of most Bok caps) comes, it will be fantastic.

“It’s nice to be back in South Africa and playing with a bunch of individuals who are such great players in a great team. And also Neil (Powell) taking over (at the Sharks), he is a phenomenal person and a great coach, so it’s nice to be part of a system like that.

“Also, the support staff at the Sharks are incredible, so I must say that I am enjoying my life and my rugby.”


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