Former Sharks hooker Gary Botha is leaving Harlequins and is already in negotiation to rejoin the Blue Bulls.
The 27-year-old Botha, a Pretoria native and alumnus of Waterkloof Hoër in the capital, made his Super 14 début for the Sharks in 2003 as a draft player, having languished in the Bulls’ age-group ranks for years without getting much of a look in. After a superb tournament in an otherwise ordinary Sharks side, Botha went back to Pretoria and quickly established himself as first choice at the Bulls. He went on to play in the team that captured the Super 14 trophy in 2007, but his Springbok appearances were always somewhat limited due to the presence of John Smit.
Botha amassed 12 Springbok caps in all, between 2005 and 2007.
His return to the Bulls will raise a number of interesting issues, of course, since Chilliboy Ralepelle, Bok hooker elect, is currently second in the Pretoria pecking order, with the limited Derick Kuün preferred in the number 2 jersey. Bandise Maku has put in some impressive performances in Ralepelle’s absence, but it’s hard to see him progressing any further with Botha back in the ranks. Talk of Kuün moving back to flank seems a little ridiculous, since the Bulls have no shortage of quality opensides and he’s unlikely to play ahead of Deon Stegmann or Jacques Burger in the current setup. Moving from first-choice hooker to third-choice fetcher is such a stupid move that not even a Bulls tight forward would consider it… surely?
To my mind, there’s very little doubt that Botha will come straight back into the 22, though and it may well be that Ralepelle is forced to find another union that will allow him enough game time to further underline his Bok credentials. Perhaps a move to Durban, to be closer to his mentor John Smit would make sense, but there would be little purpose served in benching behind Bismarck du Plessis at provincial level as well. There is still no clarity on the future of du Plessis, though and the Botha move would at least seem to drive the final nail into the coffin of the du Plessis-Bulls link.
Unless Western Province pull a rabbit out of the hat at the 11th hour – unlikely since they already have Tiaan Liebenberg in superb form and have spent huge amounts on Bryan Habana – the smart money would be on the du Plessis brothers putting pen to paper with the Sharks. The alternative is to take a massive pay cut and head back to Bloem.Tweet