Connect with us


Best Boks v England: Etzebeth Emerges as the Uncrowned King

Eben Etzebeth sent an emphatic message to farcical World Rugby that he’s the best player in the world with a colossal performance in the Springboks’ dramatic 27-26 defeat to England at Twickenham on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

Rugby Betting Handicap

Eben Etzebeth sent an emphatic message to farcical World Rugby that he’s the best player in the world with a colossal performance in the Springboks’ dramatic 27-26 defeat to England at Twickenham on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The teams treated fans, 82 000 of whom packed the home of English rugby to the rafters, to a classic clash that went down to the wire, with young flyhalf Marcus Smith sinking the world champions with a penalty goal in the final minute.

Here are our top three Springbok standouts:

Eben Etzebeth

Days after no Springbok or All Blacks player found their names on the shortlist for World Rugby’s Player of the Year award, one of the leading candidates who were inexplicably overlooked ensured the sport’s governing body was made to look like fools.

Fresh of a Man of the Match performance at Murrayfield, where the world champions beat Scotland 30-15, Etzebeth was a tour de force at Twickenham, outmuscling, outworking and outsmarting Maro Itoje, whose name is on the widely condemned list, along with France scrumhalf Antoine Dupont and Wallabies duo Michael Hooper and Samu Kerevi.

Etzebeth was phenomenal in every aspect of the game. On top of delivering vintage disciplined destruction, the Springbok behemoth produced several big plays in an 80-minute performance for the ages. He somehow sensationally regained a box kick in the 14th minute, charged down a kick that led to a crucial penalty in the 61st minute and made a stunning break in the final 10 minutes.

The most experienced player in the side stood up once again with a vital lineout steal in the 76th minute, his second of the afternoon and right after Siya Kolisi’s yellow card and put every last bit of energy he had into trying to win the ball back in the air from the final restart.

Overall, the second-rower made a pack-high 46 metres from seven carries and an unrivalled 13 tackles at a 100% clip. After one last herculean effort to cap off a year of consistently colossal showings, Etzebeth can hold his head up high as the uncrowned king of 2021.

Damian de Allende

He didn’t quite have the sustained strike power and energy of freak of nature Etzebeth, but that took nothing away from De Allende’s monumental performance in midfield. He’s another who can count himself unlucky that he missed out on a World Rugby Player of the Year nomination, along with centre partner Lukhanyo Am and captain Kolisi.

Exceptionally strong with ball in hand, he sent Max Malins flying during one of his seven surges and sparked a try-scoring opportunity when he drew in two defenders with an outstanding run and even better offload to Kolisi shortly after half-time. That impressive mix of brains and brawn saw him make a match-high 76 metres.

His work rate on defence was praiseworthy as well, an unquenchable hunger highlighted by a terrific cover tackle on Malins in the 32nd minute.

Duane Vermeulen

Having had a quiet tour by his high standards, the veteran No.8 came good at Twickenham. He clearly enjoys taking on England and while it wasn’t on par with his historic Man of the Match performance in the 32-12 triumph in the World Cup final the last time the teams had met in 2019, it was a highly influential all-round effort.

An assured early take under a high ball, a rear-guard role he plays so well, set the tone. He ramped up the aggression on defence, leading by example in this department with some bruising hits, made good ground on attack (19 metres from four carries), featured in the lineouts and was the architect of the driving mauls.

Moreover, he was close to being back to his best at the breakdown, where he clamped onto the ball in the 71st minute to win a penalty that put the Springboks in the lead for the first time.

Honourable Mentions

Scorer of South Africa’s first try in a World Cup final, Makazole Mapimpi made more history with another five-pointer against the men in white, which saw him become the fastest Springbok to reach the 20-try mark in what was his 25th Test, beating the previous record held by Bryan Habana, who reached the milestone in 27 Tests. The hard-working wing also made a try-saving tackle on Malins and aided Vermeulen to win the aforementioned breakdown penalty.

Meanwhile, Ox Nche finished an impressive first full season of Test rugby in style, rocking opposite number Bevan Rodd’s world with a brutal hit that forced a turnover in his own 22 and gored Kyle Sinckler to win a scrum penalty in the 43rd minute.

Special mention must also be made of the Bomb Squad, particularly Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff, who brought the hurt in the scrums and general play, while Marx also remedied the lineout issues.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

More in Rugby