The Springboks and Wales will face off in their third and final Castle Lager Incoming Series Test at the DHL Stadium in Cape Town on Saturday, where the series win will be at stake after each of the teams registered a victory in the first two outings.
Both Bok lock Lood de Jager and centre Damian de Allende acknowledged the big achievements for their team-mates, but said winning the match and sealing the series victory was their only objective going into the match.
“It’s very special to play Eben’s 100th Test alongside him,” said De Jager, who will pack down in the middle row next to Etzebeth for the 31st time, making them the second-most capped Bok lock partnership after Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha (63 Tests together in the engine room).
“It is a special occasion for him, but it will be even more special if we can help win the match for him and Bongi.
“For us this is a final, the series is on the line and Wales feels the same way. We have big games coming up this year and next years as well, so it will be good for us to get used to pressure games such as these.”
De Allende spoke equally highly of Etzebeth and Mbonambi, while echoeing De Jager’s sentiments about the importance of winning the series to build momentum.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play with Eben since Under-19 level and the way he ran over the other players back then showed the aura he has as a player,” said De Allende.
“We all know this is his 100th Test, but the team’s goals come first and hopefully we can get a good result so that he can celebrate this milestone in style.
“It is a massive achievement for him and Bongi, but there is a bigger picture for us as a team and that is winning.”
De Jager expected a massive onslaught from Wales, who will be desperate to secure their first series win in South African soil, and said the set pieces would be vital in determining which team emerge victorious.
“In such big games it is always important to dominate physically, that is key in the result, and we are expecting nothing different on Saturday,” said De Jager.
“Wales have good forwards, and they are big on their set pieces, so the battles are going to be big in the scrums, lineouts and mauls.”
Looking back at the last two matches De Jager said: “The effort in the last two games was good, but I think we can be a bit more disciplined and get more scoreboard pressure. So, it is small things we have to work on. At the end of the day we need to be as disciplined as we can be.”
De Allende was also comfortable with how the Bok backline was progressing and said: “I think we are getting closer to where we want to be on the field of play, it is just small margins. The excitement and hunger are big in the group, and everyone is eager to give their best and get a good result.”