South Africa Springboks Rugby News

Bakkies still excited about playing for the Boks

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Bakkies Botha said on Friday that the younger players in the national training squad brought a new energy to the Springbok team.


The seasoned campaigner who boasts 42 Test caps said his enthusiasm to play for the Springboks is as great as ever.


“I feel just as excited as the day when I first pulled the Springbok jersey over my head for the first time against France in 2002,” said Botha, speaking at Somerset West where the Bok training squad has been in camp since Wednesday.


“It’s just been amazing here in the camp. It feels like we are one big family.


“The vibe in the team meeting is amazing. It was good drinking coffee with each other and just talking about rugby in the meetings.


We’ve really adapted well and players have all had an influence on the team meetings, with their input. I already know a few players better than I did before.


A guy like Tondie (Chavhanga), whom I’ve known for a few years as a player, I now know far better having spent some time with him in a team environment.”


Botha, who has established himself as one of the world’s finest line-out jumpers alongside Victor Matfield, will be a key player as new Bok coach Peter de Villiers guides the fortunes of the World Champions.


“We know we are the World champs but don’t see ourselves being under pressure because we are the World Champions,” said Botha.


“We are under pressure to put higher standards on ourselves, even higher than what it was in the past.”


“It all about getting things 100% right in this team and then proving to ourselves that from numbers one to 15 we have the potential to meet our own high standards.”


Botha also mentioned the threat posed by Wales, the reigning Six Nations champions, in the upcoming Tests.


“They know that because Wales have won the Six Nations they are going to be tough. We’ve acknowledged that Wales won’t be easy and the next couple of weeks is about preparing for that challenge.”


The first three days at the Somerset West camp has given de Villiers and the rest of his coaching staff a chance to get to know more about the players. “We tend to underestimate the thinking of players,” said de Villiers on Friday.


“The time we’ve spent with the players has made me realise my limitations. It’s wonderful how the players have matured off the field.


“One or two players must still open up freely but I know how 90% of them think. That makes it easy for me to do what I want to do with them.


“The level of intellectuality and approachability shown by the players in the team gatherings has really amazed me. We sometimes fail to see the players’ level of authority and their perspective.


“I want to say that 50% of the responsibility for this team will be handled by the players.”


On Saturday, the training squad will take the action to the field for their first training session in Stellenbosch, where media and fans are free to attend.


“There are youngsters who don’t know what it is to play in front of big crowds, so by having open sessions they can get used to people watching them,” said de Villiers.


“They can learn to focus on what they are doing. We want all South Africans to feel proud of this team and whilst it might be hard on the players to have people around at training it will help us to become the ‘peoples team’.


“It will harden them (the players). It will be a culture shock for some of them but we are part of this country, and open training sessions is a nation-building exercise.


“Nothing comes easy. Nothing comes without a price and we are willing to pay that price, if necessary.” De Villiers said the squad will discuss the matter of the new law variations (elvs) later on Friday.


Sapa – Rugbyweek.com

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