Recalled All Blacks prop Ethan de Groot can’t wait to “get a crack at the big boys” of the Springboks when New Zealand and the world champions clash in the Republic.
De Groot, who missed selection for the Ireland series, is one of two players recalled by the All Blacks for the Rugby Championship, the other being loose forward Shannon Frizell.
His call-up also coincided with his 24th birthday, which he described as a “hell of a birthday present”.
Now, he is looking forward to “ripping in again” with the Kiwis in the two Tests against the Boks in South Africa, starting on 6 August in Nelspruit.
“The first few days I was feeling a bit sorry for myself [after missing out]. I was pretty gutted when I didn’t get named in the Ireland series, so just went away and put in a bit of work,” four-Test-capped De Groot told 1 News of his recall.
“I’m just stoked, stoked to get back in there. But I’ve worked hard since and I’ve just got to get back on the horse. The last four weeks I’ve just been working really hard.
“Obviously, I’ve never played against the South Africans before, so I’m looking forward to hopefully getting a crack at playing some of those big boys over there.”
All Blacks coach Ian Foster, who named a 36-man squad for the tour to SA on Friday, was pleased at how De Groot responded to his initial omission.
“Delighted with Ethan de Groot coming in. He’s done what we’ve asked him to do the last six or seven weeks. A lot leaner, a lot fitter, and excited with his selection,” Foster said.
“He’s dropped quite a bit of weight. He’s bouncing around and he’s still a new All Black with lots to learn but, like I said, got a lot of faith in him long term. We just need him to get to the levels that we need him to.”
He added: “Actually, I didn’t know it was his birthday … I’m sure he enjoyed the phone call.”