From ‘foul place’ to pushing for trophies a big deal for Sharks captain Eben Etzebeth

Sharks enforcer Eben Etzebeth praised flyhalf Siya Masuku for being a ‘warrior’. Photo: BackpagePix

Sharks enforcer Eben Etzebeth praised flyhalf Siya Masuku for being a ‘warrior’. Photo: BackpagePix

Published May 24, 2024


Sharks captain Eben Etzebeth says tonight’s Challenge Cup final against Gloucester in London (9pm kick-off, SA time) is the most important of his career outside of a Test match for the Springboks.

That is a big statement from a player who has played on the biggest stages worldwide since he began playing for the Stormers in 2012.

That was two years after the Stormers lost a Super Rugby final against the Bulls.

“This is not international level obviously, but at club level, it is the most important game I have played. I never went to a final with the Stormers,” said Etzebeth.

“Yes, I did play in a Currie Cup final, but that is not as important. We all know the big final (Leinster against Toulouse in the Champions Cup) is on Saturday, but for us this is big.”

Etzebeth has been given the captain’s armband in the absence of the injured Lukhanyo Am, and he needs no reminding that a win will earn the Sharks a place in next season’s Champions Cup.

“It is a big game for us as it has not been the best of seasons for the Sharks, and because of that it all comes down to this game,” said the Springbok enforcer.

“We have not done well in the URC, so this is the game we need to win. We would have taken a place in the Champions Cup if we were offered that outcome earlier in the season.

“But while everyone is talking about us making history by becoming the first South African team to win a European trophy, there is a quality team on the other side who also want to win. It will come down to which team wants it more.

“It is a final and in terms of the type of rugby played, it will be like a Test match, like our semi-final against Clermont-Auvergne.”

Etzebeth said it was vital that the Sharks remain calm.

“We know what is at stake. How much would it mean for the Sharks? Yes, from where we came from earlier in the season, it would mean a lot.

“It had become a foul place at the Sharks, so to come from there and have a chance to win silverware is big.

— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) May 23, 2024

“For the coaches and the players, we must show the same spirit that was shown in the semi-final.”

Etzebeth spoke highly of emerging flyhalf Siya Masuku, who has been entrusted with running the show for the Sharks.

“Yeah, he’s been incredible. I was on a podcast the other day and I mentioned Siya, and I just said Siya, and I think some people thought I was thinking about Siya Kolisi,” he said.

“And I corrected them by saying Siya Masuku, and I got a lot of laughing faces.

— The Sharks (@SharksRugby) May 22, 2024

“They were probably thinking I was joking, but hopefully the people will start realising now what a special player he is.

“He puts his body on the line, he’s a warrior, and I mean, that’s what you want in a 10.

“You want a guy who can take you forward. He has a good kicking game, he’s good at goal-kicking … he’s not scared, he’s just been incredible.”