Springboks

GREAT DEBATE | Eben v Bakkies ... who would you pick?

Eben Etzebeth and Bakkies Botha

When Sport24's Herman Mostert recently penned his greatest Springbok team of the professional era, one of the major talking points highlighted by you, the rugby public, concerned one of the lock positions.

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Eben Etzebeth was picked at No 4, but a number of Sport24's readers in reaction suggested they would've opted for 2007 Rugby World Cup winning bruiser, Bakkies Botha.

The quality of both players cannot be questioned, but Sport24 felt it would be a good idea to make a case for the inclusion of both in the starting XV.

Herman Mostert again makes a case for Etzebeth to start, while Lloyd Burnard backs Botha.

But what do YOU think? Etzebeth or Botha? Let us know your thoughts by mailing us on mysport@sport24.co.za or by tweeting us at @sport24news

CASE FOR: Eben Etzebeth 

Eben Etzebeth and Bakkies Botha will both go down as arguably two of the hardest men to ever play for the Springboks.

Both are tough, uncompromising players who have instilled fear into the eyes or many an opponent.

The Boks were truly blessed to have these two giants manning their engine room in back-to-back eras.

Etzebeth's physicality is right up there with his predecessor Botha, but for me the former is a more mobile and skilful player.

He is also more athletically gifted than Botha and adds a little extra across the park.

Etzebeth is a better lineout organiser - Bakkies played alongside lineout genius Victor Matfield - and the man from Cape Town is equally adept at Botha in poaching opposition lineout balls.

Both were fiery characters on the field, but Etzebeth is more likely to keep his cool when things get hot in the engine room.

Botha had a stellar career - he won everything noteworthy - but his legacy is somewhat tarnished by disciplinary indiscretions.  

Too often, the former Bulls hard-man would get himself involved in off-the-ball scuffling and he had an unfortunate tendency of head-butting opponents - just ask former All Blacks scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan and Springbok fullback Gio Aplo... there was also an eye-gouging allegation that generated the wrong attention.

Don't get me wrong, rugby needs hard grafters like these and Botha will go down as one of the best in history, but I'd back a somewhat calmer Etzebeth in the pressure cooker of an important Test.

Etzebeth may not have won Super Rugby three times like Botha and has only started out at French glamour club Toulon, but he already boasts the same number of Tests (85) as Botha and at only 28 he has the potential to rival Matfield's most-capped Springbok tally of 127.

CASE FOR: Bakkies Botha 

Before even examining Botha's on-field ability and what made him one of the great Springboks, his accolades tell their own story. 

He was won everything there is to win: A Rugby World Cup (2007), the Rugby Championship (2004, 2009), Super Rugby (2007, 2009, 2019), the Currie Cup (2002, 2004, 2006, 2009), the Vodacom Cup (2001) and, after joining Toulon to see out his career, Botha won Europe's Champions Cup three times (2013, 2014, 2015). 

He was also part of the 2009 Springbok side that beat the British & Irish Lions. 

It all combines to make him one of the most decorated players in the history of the game. 

Botha played 85 Test matches between 2002 and 2014 and, along with Victor Matfield, forged easily the most respected and feared lock pairings in world rugby at the time. Even now, Botha/Matfield is considered one of the great duos in the history of the game. 

"Sometimes I feel we know each other better than we know our wives," Botha famously once said. 

Known for his immense physicality, Botha was often labelled as a player who crossed the lines of the law on too many occasions. When he was at his absolute best, though, Botha channelled that aggression perfectly.

Huge on defence, naturally strong - physically and technically - at the breakdown and a jumper with a knack for stealing opposition ball, Botha was South Africa's enforcer.

He was a soldier and a player who earned the respect of his team-mates and opponents alike because he was willing to go to some dark places, with seemingly no regard for his body, to get the job done.

That kind of leadership cannot be measured, and many who played with Botha will tell you how much confidence and fearlessness his mere presence injected into the side.

He was a monster, and if you aren't going to pick him in your side, then good luck giving him the news!

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