BJ Botha leaves SA shores to join Ulster

2008-08-14 00:00

BJ Botha, one of the world’s leading prop forwards, has cut his ties with the Sharks and the Springboks.

The 28-year-old tighthead, who has 16 Test caps, has been released with immediate effect and will leave Durban this month to join the Ulster club side in Ireland.

Botha is the second leading Sharks player to be lost this month, with centre Brad Barritt signing a three-year deal with Saracens last week.

Botha was under contract to the Sharks until the end of the year, but they, and SA Rugby, have agreed to release him this month.

Botha said yesterday that he is making a career move “to experience playing at a high level in another environment”.

“The decision has not been easy for either my family or me. But with a baby on the way, my wife is not able to fly beyond a certain date in August, and if we are to move, now is the time.

“We have taken the decision in the best interest of my career and, most importantly, my family.”

Botha made his first Sharks appearance in 2001 and made his Test debut against the All Blacks in 2006.

He was Jake White’s first-choice tighthead prop for the Rugby World Cup last year, but his campaign was cut short by injury.

Botha has been ignored by Springbok coach Peter de Villiers this season, and earlier this week current All Black prop Greg Sommerville expressed surprise that the highly-regarded Botha was not in the South African squad.

Botha has made brief appearances for the Sharks in recent weeks, but was a late withdrawal, citing ‘flu, from the Currie Cup team to play Western Province last Friday, when he was selected on the bench.

Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl said yesterday that Botha has served the franchise well, “but we have a more than competent squad of front-row players and extremely promising youngsters coming up through the ranks to fill the gap.”

Springbok Jannie du Plessis is the Sharks’ current first-choice tighthead, while Patric Cilliers is now back from an extended injury break following knee surgery.

But, as any rugby coach will tell you, top-class tighthead props, the cornerstone of any strong pack, are like hen’s teeth — the world over.

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