Bakkies Botha retires from international rugby

2014-11-22 20:29

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Springbok great Bakkies Botha has retired from international rugby, saying he was going out on “my terms”.

His announcement today came after South Africa’s 22-6 win over Italy in Padua, a match second row star Botha watched from the stands.

Botha (35) made his debut for South Africa in 2002 against France and went on to win 85 caps, with the lock one of the key figures in the Springboks’ 2007 World Cup success.

His final appearance for South Africa was last Saturday, when he came on as a replacement in the 31-28 victory over England at Twickenham.

Botha has winners’ medals from the Tri-Nations, series against the British and Irish Lions, Super Rugby, Currie Cup, Vodacom Cup as well as the European Cup and France’s Top 14.

Now with French club Toulon, Botha is the seventh most-capped Springbok of all time and holds the world record for the most Tests as a lock combination in the starting line-up with Victor Matfield (63).

“The news of my retirement will probably be described as sudden and unexpected, but it is a decision that I’ve been mulling over since 2011,” said Botha in a South Africa Rugby Union statement.

“When I limped off the field during the World Cup in 2011 with an Achilles injury, I knew that I did not leave on my terms and that I didn’t say goodbye to the Bok jersey like I had wanted to,” Botha added.

“What was ‘my terms’? I wanted to leave the jersey behind knowing I honoured the men who wore it before me, as well as the people who had supported me throughout my career,” he explained.

“When coach Heyneke (Meyer) selected me for the end-of-year tour last November, to mentor young players and to possibly spend one more minute on the field in Green and Gold with the leaping springbok on my chest, I knew that my prayers had been answered,” explained Botha.

“Earlier this year, I was blessed yet again to be involved with the Springboks. I felt I was at my best playing for Toulon as we won the Heineken (European) Cup and the French Top 14 titles, but I wasn’t expecting a Springbok call-up.

“Upon my return to the squad in 2014, I encountered even more good young locks (with Eben Etzebeth now starting in the second row) coming through the ranks, as well as my old ‘combo’ and friend, Victor Matfield.

“I considered all my options and realised that with the talent coming through at lock in South Africa, the time has come for me to call time on my Springbok career.

“Coach Heyneke was willing to pick me for this Test, but I requested him not to because I didn’t want to make a big thing out of it,” said the renowned second-row ’enforcer’.

“I wanted this Test to be about the Springboks and not about me.

“To be able to make this decision on my own terms, knowing I’m still good enough to play Test rugby, is a huge blessing.”

Meyer, responding to Botha’s announcement, said: “He’s a true warrior and we’re going to miss him. What a great warrior for the game, what a great example for the youngsters. It was really emotional when he told the team (about his retirement decision).

“He epitomises for me the Springbok spirit.”

Meanwhile Botha said he wanted to continue his club career and, ideally, finish in South Africa before retiring completely.

“I’m planning to finish my contract with Toulon and defend our titles this season.”

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