Bakkies on Scottish 'trial'
Thu, 14 Nov 2013 19:55
I first want to see if he is still good enough
He is one of South Africa's most celebrate locks of all time, but will have to prove his worth against Scotland.
Strange as it may sound decorated World Cup winner Bakkies Botha must convince coach Heyneke Meyer he still has what it takes at age 34.
Botha returns to the Springboks for the first time since the World Cup in New Zealand in 2011 - having played in 76 Tests before his two-year hiatus from the Test arena.
While most pundits welcomed the return of the Bok enforcer, coach Heyneke made it clear there are no guarantees and he will not make the team on reputation alone going forward.
"We want to see where Bakkies stand," Meyer told a media briefing at the team's base in Edinburgh ahead of Sunday's one-off Test.
While the veteran second row forward has been "really brilliant" with the team - in particular young locks Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit - and brought a "fresh vibe" to the side, the coach said he want to see what Botha can do and if he can still play for South Africa.
"I had a discussion with Bakkies this [Thursday] morning and discussed my plans for him," Meyer said, adding: "I first want to see if he is still good enough [to play international rugby] and that has always been the main thing for me.
"He has been really good in training. I have coached Bakkies since he was about 20 years old - he is probably in the best condition I have seen him in. He has lost a lot of weight, he is really fit, he is very mobile."
Meyer said he will have another discussion with Botha after Sunday's game.
"He obviously wants to play for his country going forward, [but] he needs to show he is still good enough to play for South Africa."
The message to Botha has been that he is there to "serve" the team and it is up to him.
"I believe, going forward, you need five very good locks - that is one area where we lost a number of great players in suddenly," Meyer said in reference to the departure of veteran like Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw and Botha - following the 2011 World Cup.
"Flip [van der Merwe] has come through, Pieter-Steph du Toit] I always thought will be great and Eben [Etzebeth] has played good rugby."
Meyer said he wanted to have young Du Toit involved, as they want to give him as much as possible game time.
But he opted against risking the rookie against Scotland veterans Jim Hamilton and Richie Gray.
"Scotland has a really good line-out," the Bok mentor said, adding: "They contest well and the line-out is very important.
"Their players [locks Hamilton and Gray] are two of the best line-out jumpers around. To start Pieter-Steph [du Toit] and Bakkies [Botha] will [mean we have] two new guys.
"Bakkies have played a lot of 80-minute games [for Toulon] and I wanted an experienced guy on the bench [as back-up] for Bakkies.
"Flip [van der Merwe] has moved to No.5 and he is gaining a lot of confidence there. That [No.5] is the main line-out jumper and [the player] controlling the line-outs.
"Pieter-Steph will get a chance going forward."
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