The Springboks and All Blacks clash on Saturday in a pivotal match in determining which side takes out the Rugby Championship this year.
The All Blacks have won all three games in the competition so far, South Africa have two wins and a draw, while Australia have recorded a solitary draw and Argentina have yet to register a point.
With only two rounds to play after Saturday, the winner at North Harbour Stadium will be in a strong position to claim the championship.
“This weekend is going to be a massive clash,” Etzebeth said.
“Earlier this week a New Zealand guy told me ‘forget about the Wallabies, forget about the British and Irish Lions. The Springboks and All Blacks is probably the biggest rivalry in rugby’. I think the same.
“All the games are always massive games. They are our biggest competition and hopefully they know we’re their biggest opposition.”
The All Blacks, who drew a three-Test series against the Lions earlier this year, have the upper hand in their history against South Africa, winning 55 of 93 matches.
The honours were even until 2000, with the All Blacks winning 29 of 39 games since then, including a record 57-15 thrashing in Durban last year.
But with the Springboks unbeaten after six Tests this year, Etzebeth said the nightmare of 2016, when they only won four of 12 internationals, had been put behind them.
“It took us a couple of months (to get over the Durban hiding). That really hurt,” said the giant lock who along with prop Tendai Mtawarira are the only survivors from the run-on side 12 months ago who will start on Saturday.
“In preparation for this year we said last year, the whole 2016 not just the defeat against the All Blacks, the whole 2016, including my yellow card, we put behind us.
“I must say this year has gone better so far and tomorrow’s the biggest challenge of the year so we can’t wait.”
It has been eight years since the Springboks last won in New Zealand but Etzebeth did not want to dwell on the past.
“I know they want to win the Test match tomorrow and so do we so records don’t count for much … we know what we have to do to win this game.”