His name is Brendon James Botha and he’s probably the best tighthead in South Africa. Or out of South Africa and therein, at least for the time being, lies the problem…
You see, Bok coach Peter de Villiers doesn’t like picking overseas-based players. When both Botha and CJ van der Linde decided, more-or-less simultaneously, to move over to Ireland in 2008, it set into motion a sequence of events that saw Bok skipper John Smit hastily retreaded into a makeshift tighthead, a move that has enjoyed mixed success. Backed into a corner on last year’s European tour, de Villiers duly recalled Botha to his squad and the player quickly proved his worth, adding stability to an ailing Bok scrum.
That, of course, is where the speculation started. What would Botha do now? For that matter, what would de Villiers do? Would the coach continue to pick the player, thus breaking his own “local only” rule? Would the player seek an immediate return to South Africa to boost his chances of selection for the Boks? The second option seemed on the cards, with Botha spotted in Durban over the Christmas period, but was quickly quashed by the Ulster management. Botha would not be released before his contract was up, at the end of the current European season.
Since then, though, we have seen a number of articles and reports coming out of Belfast indicating that Botha intends to stay there – in fact, the affable prop’s presence being cited as one of Johann Muller’s reasons for deciding to make Ravenhill his home after the current Super 14 season. Although there has been no official announcement that Botha has put pen to paper, I’ll admit my own hopes were fading fast.
Writing in his regular column on iAfrica.com today, however, BJ had the following to say: ” …the World Cup next year will have a big influence on their decisions. The guys who believe that they can still make it will inevitably look at returning, while the guys who have been over here for a while will want to continue building their careers and make the most of it. For me personally, my goal is to be involved in the World Cup. I was lucky enough last year to have an opportunity to be back with the Springboks and hopefully if I keep my head down and do the hard work I will get that opportunity again. I was injured during the 2007 World Cup and if I got the call to go back I wouldn’t think twice about taking it. ”
Interesting indeed. I take that as a very clear message from Botha to the SA Rugby (and Sharks) management that he is up for grabs and would jump at the opportunity to return to South Africa and fight his way into contention for the 2011 World Cup team. BJ’s a Sharks boy through and through and still has strong family links to Durban. Surely this must be a very good indication that BJ Botha will be return to the Sharks as soon as his current Ulster contract is up?
Come on home, BJ. You’ve been away too long!Tweet