‘Not the end of my Test career’

2011-10-07 00:00

SPRINGBOK lock Bakkies Botha is on his way home, but wing JP Pietersen has been passed fit to play in Sunday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final against the Wallabies in Wellington.

Botha, who aggravated an Achilles’ tendon injury at practice, flies out of New Zealand today to become the second player — after Frans Steyn — to leave the South African World Cup squad in a week.

Pietersen, who injured a quad late in last week’s clash against Samoa, came through a fitness test yesterday and will play on Sunday.

The Boks, with Pietersen and Bryan Habana, will field the same two wings who saw action against England in the 2007 RWC final in Paris.

A decision on a replacement for Botha has been delayed until after this weekend’s knock-out game.

The 32-year-old Botha said he is devastated by the injury, but insisted his Springbok days are not over.

“I am a person who normally keeps my emotions out of sight, but it was emotional to talk to the team this morning and tell them I would be going home,” he said.

“I told the team to cherish every moment of their time in the green and gold because you never know when it is going to be your last.

“I’m very disappointed after all the hard work that has been put in over the past few months.

“But it’s not about me, it’s about the team now and there’s still a big job to do. I’ll be sitting at home with my family on Sunday with a tear on my cheek as the team takes on the Wallabies.

“But we can’t stop here — there are still three games left to play.”

Botha said he is due to take up a three-year contract with Toulon on November 1 and will be seeing a Pretoria specialist about treatment of his ankle injury.

“This is definitely not the end of my Test career as far as I am concerned,” he said. “I’ll be aiming to give 100% to Toulon to help them get into the Heineken Cup and I’ll still be available for South Africa next year.

“I still have the desire to play for my country and that will be there for as long as I play. It’s a special thing to pull on this jersey and that hunger has not left me.”

Botha made his Test debut in 2002 and was appearing at his third Rugby World Cup, having collected a winner’s medal at the 2007 tournament. He played in the Pool D wins over Fiji and Namibia in this tournament, but Achilles and hamstring injuries kept him out of the matches against Wales and Samoa.

The latest Achilles tendon injury is a new injury, affecting the opposite ankle, he said.

“I knew straight away that something wasn’t right.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be 100% and with great players like Victor [Matfield], Danie [Rossouw] and Johann [Muller] all fit there was no need for me to hang around and be a distraction to the team.”

Habana said the Botha’s talk to the team was emotional.

“We’ve had a guy that’s really given his heart to this country for the last 10 years and he’s become a good friend to a lot of us. He’s a strong character within this team, not only by the way he carries on off the field, but his ability to bring this team together on the field,” said Habana.

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