Sunday, May 19, 2024

‘Arrogant’ Ireland underestimated New Zealand at the World Cup, says Springbok Eben Etzebeth

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In an interview with ‘The Rugby Pod’, the two-time World Cup winning lock accused Ireland of arrogance after the two sides’ pool match at the Stade de France.

Ireland beat South Africa and went on to top their pool, but came a cropper once again in the last eight against the All Blacks.

Meanwhile, the Boks bounced back to beat France, England and New Zealand by a point and have the last laugh.

“After the game, you shake the guys’ hands, and probably 12 out of the 23, when I shook their hand, they told me ‘See you guys in the final’,” Etzebeth said.

“The way it worked out, we were going to play France and they were going to play New Zealand [in the quarter-finals].

“My immediate thought was, ‘Are these guys seriously not even thinking about the All Blacks in a World Cup quarter-final, playing against them?’

“That remark that they made, ‘See you guys in the final’. I was just like, ‘These guys are making a big mistake to look past probably the most dominant team in the last 20-30 years of Test rugby’.

“We would never say that because we knew we’d have to play the host nation, pitch up to beat France in their backyard.

“It just felt like they were so confident saying things like that, ‘See you in the final’ when you know you’ve got the mighty All Blacks coming up in a World Cup quarter-final.

“[Prop] Frans Malherbe and Lood de Jager were with me and I said, ‘I don’t know if these guys are riding a bit high’. Obviously, it’s good to be confident but you can never be arrogant in this game.

“That’s the thing about rugby, you can have the best season and can have one slip up or one mistake or missed tackle and the guy will put you on your arse. That’s the beauty of this game, you’re never on top forever.”

Ireland take on the Springboks twice this summer, with the first Test taking place in Pretoria on July 6 and the second in Durban a week later.

South Africa have a new-look coaching staff, with Rassie Erasmus back as the head coach and New Zealander Tony Brown and former Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery on board.

“It’s great that Rassie is in charge, back as head coach. It would have been a big thing to lose him, the way he brings people together and understands people,” Etzebeth said.

“We’ve some new coaching staff, first thing for them is to have new ideas and for us to take that on board. They’ll have different plans to what Felix [Jones] and Jacques [Nienaber] had.

“It’s to get some consistency between the World Cups, we all know 2027 is the next big one but you want to be competitive and win one or two Rugby Championships.

“Within this phase, we’ve got Ireland coming up, Wales first at Twickenham, but those Ireland Test matches – everyone is outside the Ireland and Springbok camps are talking those up. Everybody’s talking about that game.”

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