Springbok and Toulon lock Bakkies Botha has spoken about life in France, the final 18 months of his career and what he has planned after rugby.
After his successful run with the Springboks in June against the World XV and Wales, the My Players website caught up with the 35-year-old during his off time in the South African bush.
It’s family time for the second-row veteran before the Botha clan heads back to Toulon ahead of the 2014-15 European campaign.
He’s enjoyed a dream run in France, helping Toulon win the double (French Top 14 and European Cup titles) last season, adding to their 2013 European Cup triumph. These winner’s medals will be included in his already impressive trophy cabinet, which includes a World Cup, a British and Irish Lions Tour, two Tri-Nations, three Super Rugby and three Currie Cup crowns.
He also proved that he’s still a great player at Test level, impressing for the Boks in June with a physical impact on attack and defence. His contributions have been vital on and off the field as he acted as a mentor for the younger and less-experienced locks in the national squad.
So what more can we expect from this South African legend? Botha makes no secret that this will be his last season at the French club.
“I do have the offer to extend my current contract, but I’ve already made up my mind. This will be my last season as a Toulon player. That will be the end of Bakkies Botha,” said Botha.
“My career has been given a new challenge in France, which is refreshing. I’ve had the opportunity to train and learn from world-class players, like Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Giteau and Carl Hayman. It’s amazing to see their strong work ethic at training. It inspires me to put in hard work.
“Toulon is also a proud rugby city. The players work hard to ensure we bring silverware back to the fans. It’s also been great sharing this experience with South African colleagues, like Bryan Habana, Danie Rossouw, Juan Smith and the others (there are seven South Africans in the Toulon squad). Hopefully, we can achieve more success as a club going into my final season.”
Botha added that he would love to finish his playing days at the 2015 World Cup.
“If (Springbok head coach) Heyneke Meyer feels that he needs me in the Springbok squad, then I’ll be more than happy to be part of the team at the next World Cup,” said Botha.
“It’s always an honour being part of the Springbok squad. In saying that, I don’t want to be in the way of the younger players. There are talented young locks in South Africa, like Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager, who proved himself against Wales and Scotland. If it’s meant to be, it will happen.”
His appearances for the Springboks has allowed him to reconnect with long-term lock partner Victor Matfield, who is also proving himself as a valuable asset at Super Rugby and Test levels since coming out of retirement this year.
“Many people were skeptical when Victor returned to the field at the age of 37, but I knew from day one he was still going to add a lot of value. There’s no substitute for experience,” explained Botha.
“It’s been great being able to play alongside him too. Everybody thought that the 2011 World Cup was the last of the Victor-Bakkies partnership, but we will continue to give our all to the Springboks when needed.
“We also pass on our experience to the youngsters whenever possible. Yes, it’s great to pass on words of congrats to players via social media, like Twitter, but that time we get to spend with them one-on-one is invaluable. We teach them things like lineout jumping, scrumming, where to position themselves in different situations and the finer details of the game.
“Heyneke is doing a great job. He’s setting great structures in South African rugby. There’s a great mix of experience. Seeing young guys like Jan Serfontein and Oupa Mohoje coming through is testament to the work he’s putting in behind the scenes. Springbok rugby is very healthy.”
So what does Botha have lined up once he hangs up his boots for good?
He’s already involved in boerewors and herding livestock, mainly buffalo. This has seen him adopt the nickname “butcher” in Toulon as he provides the locals with Bakkies-styled sausage.
“Rugby has ruled my life during my career, so I’m looking to spend time with my family once I retire,” said Botha. “I’ll buy a farm when I return to South Africa next year, somewhere in the North West near Sun City.
“I’ll be spending my days making boerewors and living in the bush. I love the outdoors. I’m also quite passionate about herding, especially when it comes to buffalo.”