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Friday 24 November 2017

Henderson wants shirt off Etzebeth's back

Ireland’s Iain Henderson Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland’s Iain Henderson Photo: Sportsfile

It could be fourth time lucky for Ireland lock Iain Henderson.

The 25-year-old had eyed up South Africa captain Eben Etzebeth as the man he would like to swap shirts with the last three times he played for Ireland against the Springboks in the summer of 2016.

You could forgive Etzebeth for it slipping his mind as Ireland stunned the Springboks 26-20 in the first test at Newlands Stadium, where CJ Stander's high challenge on Pat Lambie meant the tourists spent an hour with 14 men.

Sadly, Ireland could not maintain their momentum, losing a big lead in the second test at Ellis Park ,where Quinn Roux skipped the queue to receive Etzebeth's number four ahead of falling to a 2-1 defeat.

"I don't think it's necessarily about collecting them the way you might have collected football cards or Pokemon cards," smiled Henderson.

"It's definitely more about when you do play against someone and maybe do get a good win over them, when there's a really good contest.

"Then, afterwards, you go in and have a chat with them and swap jerseys and you end up getting a nice collection."

Before that, Henderson did exchange shirts with Marcel Coetzee from his debut in November 2012 as a wide-eyed 20-year-old.

"Looking back now, I was young and raw and inexperienced and probably didn't have a bit of a clue what I was doing," he said.

Henderson fears no man after returning from the British and Irish Lions frustrated to miss out on the three test matches, despite showing superb form.

The naive teenager has grown into a thoroughbred international forward, unafraid to test himself against the most intimidating forward in world rugby.

"His performances add to his presence and size and the way he carries himself," considered Henderson.

"I'd say the work he does off the pitch would probably match that to make him the player that he is.

"He's alongside a few other boys, Lood de Jager and (Franco) Mostert, they're all enormous presences, Pieter Steph du Toit as well.

"They're all what you'd describe as traditional South African rugby players, so to speak."

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