Comeback for ‘Oom’

2013-11-14 00:00

BAKKIES Botha, or “Oom” to the younger members of the Springbok squad, will return to Test rugby after a two-year break when he plays against Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday.

The 34-year-old Botha, who made his international debut 11 years ago and has 76 Test caps, currently plays his rugby for Toulon in the French Top 14.

He was surprisingly recalled by coach Heyneke Meyer for the three-Test tour of Europe and it seems certain he will replace the hard-working Eben Etzebeth in Sunday’s starting line-up. The team will be announced later today.

“Every day since I left to join Toulon I have thought about wearing the green and gold again,” an excited Botha said in an audio link from Edinburgh yesterday. “I was very happy when Heyneke called to tell me I had been selected for the tour.”

Botha said his goals were short-term “and giving my very best to this amazing Springbok squad”.

“I’m living this week-by-week. There are new young locks like Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit coming through and I want to play a big role by trying to help them.”

Botha said he was not looking at the possibility of playing in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

“It would be wrong to look too far ahead at this stage of my career. The body is getting older, and I haven’t got four or five years left. But if I can make a difference now, and my experience rubs off on the young players, I will be very happy.”

Botha said that there had been a major change in the Springbok squad in the last two years.

“There are a lot of new faces, young faces, and I’m still catching up with some of them.”

A number of youngsters in the Springbok squad, among them Marcell Coetzee and Siya Kolisi, address Botha as Oom and the gruff Springbok lock said he did not know whether that was out of respect or just because of “my old age”.

“I also feed off them as well and it is a privilege to be involved with the squad again. It is good to have that mutual respect in the squad.”

Veteran Springbok wing Bryan Habana, who has joined Botha at Toulon, also attended yesterday’s media briefing and he paid warm tribute to his club team-mate.

“You can see that the youngsters like Eben [Etzebeth] and Pieter-Steph [du Toit] look up to him as a legend. He has a wealth of experience and is a great addition to the squad.”

Habana said that when he arrived at Toulon after the Currie Cup final he could still see that Botha was “yearning” to play for the Springboks again.

“It is great to have an old team-mate and a close friend back in the team.”

Looking ahead to Sunday, Habana said that the Springboks would be ready for a tough Test match against the Scots.

“They caught us off-guard with their physicality in Nelspruit in June and they will be tough in front of their home crowd and in conditions that suit them.”

The injury-hit Scotland team shows six changes to the team who beat Japan at the weekend. They have lost their captain Kelly Brown and Scarlets flank John Barclay takes his place in the side while scrumhalf Greig Leidlaw will lead the side.

Saracens’ Duncan Taylor comes into the midfield to take the place of the injured Matt Scott.

Euan Murray is unavailable because he refuses to play on Sundays on religious grounds, while Ryan Grant drops to the bench after going off during the 42-17 victory over Japan with a head injury.

Alastair Kellock, who suffered a concussion against Japanese, and man of the match Tim Swinson, who picked up a shoulder injury, were not named in the squad.

The Test kicks off at 5 pm on Sunday and Frenchman Jerome Garces will be the referee.

Scotland: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 David Denton, 7 John Barclay, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Moray Low, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson. Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 John Beattie, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Max Evans.

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