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Eben Etzebeth relishes working with Neil Powell at Sharks: ‘He’ll be a great 15s coach in future’

Eben Etzebeth and Neil Powell. (Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Eben Etzebeth and Neil Powell. (Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth says he’s enjoying his rugby at the Sharks under new mentor Neil Powell.

Etzebeth joined the Sharks from French outfit Toulon last year and he’s already made an impact for the Durbanites in the URC and Champions Cup.

The Sharks also appear to be a team on the up under Powell. The former Blitzboks guru was brought in as director of rugby last year but also took over as head coach in late November after Sean Everitt stepped down following a horror 35-0 home defeat to Edinburgh.

Since then, the Sharks’ fortunes have turned around. They’ve won four out of their last five URC games and also qualified for the Champions Cup round of 16.

“I can’t comment on last season because I wasn’t there but so far I’ve experienced Neil in a very positive way,” Etzebeth said on Tuesday. “His rugby knowledge is great and he definitely brings some new tactics to the game because he’s got that sevens background.”

The Bok lock was addressing reporters at SARU House in Plattekloof after being named SA Rugby Player of the Year for 2022.

READ | Etzebeth dissects Boks’ World Cup prospects: ‘If we bring our A-game, we’ll have a big shot’

Etzebeth backed Powell to make a successful transition from a sevens coach to the 15-man game.

“Neil is a great coach. He hasn’t been part of the 15s system for that long but he’s an even better person. He’s also like a sponge, he just wants to learn more from coaches around him [and] from some of the senior players. 

“He’s definitely not a know-it-all type of personality and that’s sometimes what you need in a rugby team. And I must say, he’s been doing that job so well and the guys really respect him. 

“He was respected at the sevens, he was phenomenal there and he’s already a great coach for me. He will become a legend… I don’t know how long he will stay at the Sharks, but I think he will be a great 15s coach in future. It’s awesome to work with him.”

Etzebeth added that he was enjoying the Sharks team environment.

“For me it’s nice to be back in South Africa and playing with individuals who are such great players. It’s a great team. And with Neil also taking over… he’s a phenomenal person and great coach. It’s nice to be part of a system like that again. Also, the backroom staff at the Sharks is incredible. I’m enjoying my life and rugby there in Durban.”

ALSO READ | Bok star Eben Etzebeth to cap memorable week by getting married: ‘My biggest achievement’

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