Gary Botha’s dream of playing for the Springboks again may come true much sooner than he expected.
J J Harmse reports that the former Springbok hooker on Thursday signed a contract with the Blue Bulls, tying him to the union until the end of 2011.
He hopes to play himself into contention for the Springbok squad for the World Cup in New Zealand that year.
Botha was a member of the squad that won the tournament in France in 2007.
On Saturday, he will play his last game for Harlequins in the English Premiership, then he may even be in action for the Blue Bulls against the Leopards next Friday.
There is also a chance that Botha may be called up by Bok coach Peter de Villiers for South Africa’s tour to Europe next month.
Two of De Villiers’s hooker options – Adriaan Strauss and Chiliboy Ralepelle – are injured and that may prompt the coach to cast the net wider.
“I only pick players playing in the country and if Gary returns, he will be in contention,” said De Villiers. “It’s good to see guys returning because it shows their willingness to play for the Springboks again.”
South Africa are set to play club sides Leicester and Saracens, and Botha’s knowledge can be a major asset, particularly as a number of younger players will be in the side.
Apart from Botha, the Blue Bulls have also managed to lure some of the country’s best young players to Pretoria.
Bulls captain and South African schools flank Lean Schwartz is possibly the biggest name and has already represented the country at under-19 level.
Two SA Schools centres – Bradley Moolman and Francois Venter – are also on their way, as is wing Abednego Mamushi.
Junior contracts have also been offered to:
Props: Juan Schoeman (SA under-18), LJ van Heerden (Lions), Steph Pretorius (Free State).
Hookers: Mbongeni Mbonambi, Jacques Momberg (Blue Bulls).
Locks: Jacques Momberg (BB), JJ Breet (Limpopo, SA under-18), Gernu Eksteen (BB, SA under-18), José Julies (BB).
Flanks: JP le Grange (Lions), Sandile Ngwenya (Pumas), Arno Botha (Limpopo).
Scrumhalves: Luan Jacobs, (SA under-18), Arafaat Kok (SA Schools).
Flyhalves: Hagen Mumba (Lions).
Centres: Morné Stassen (Valke), Johan de Goede (BB).
Wings: Mauritz Lombard (BB), Abednego Mamushi (SA Schools), Chejane Mellane (SA Academy).
Fullback: Pieter van der Walt (BB).