Bullish Botha plans a ‘big year’




It is stating the obvious, but John Philip (Bakkies) Botha relishes the role of an enforcer – be that with the Bulls or the Springboks. It is a well-known fact.

However, what will be concerning for his opponents is the fact that he plans to make 2007 a “big year”.

The veteran of 31 Tests, who missed the entire 2006 international season through calf and Achilles related injuries, made his comeback to competitive rugby in the nail-biting 30-27 win over the Chiefs in Pretoria last week.

He will continue to improve his “match fitness” and work on his allround game when he starts his second game of the year when the Bulls face the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday – the first of five matches in Australasia.

By his own admission Botha is not 100 percent yet.

“I’m short on match fitness and I need to work on my allround game still,” the 202cm, 120kg giant said in an interview from his team’s base in Sydney – where they are preparing ahead of the encounter in Canberra.

“I am really looking forward to the game against the Brumbies, because I want to make a big impact,” said the player.

Asked about his role as the enforcer of the Bulls and Bok packs, as well as his long-standing partnership with Bulls captain Victor Matfield, Botha said he does not feel any pressure.

“It is a role which I have been fulfilling for a few years now and I enjoy the part that I have to play … with at the Bulls and the Boks,” he told this website.

“That is my role and I know exactly what is expected of me.”

He said he “enjoys” playing alongside Matfield – a partnership rated as the world’s best second-row combination.

“It really is great to be back alongside Vic [Matfield] after being sidelined for nine/ten months [through injury].

“We have come a long way together and this will be a big year for us – firstly with the Bulls in the Super 14 and then, if there’s no major injuries, with the Springboks at the World Cup in France.”

Looking ahead to this week’s encounter with the Brumbies, Botha said it is vital that the Bulls stick to their game plan.

“The Brumbies are very clever, not just the backs, but certainly also the forwards. They play with continuity and know how to take the ball away from our forwards.

“What is important for us is that we must stamp our authority on the set pieces and then do what we do well. We must ensure our pattern is enforced on the game,” he added.

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital

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