Sharks prop BJ Botha – one of five newcomers to the Springbok squad announced on Saturday – experienced a range of mixed rugby emotions this weekend.
After watching the Stormers capitulate in the face of a massive Bulls onslaught at Newlands that saw the Sharks dumped out of the Vodacom Super 14 semi-finals by the narrowest of margins, Botha was tempted to switch off the television.
Luckily he didn’t because he learned moments later – along with the rest of the country – that despite reports that Bok coach Jake White had dismissed his claims to a place in the training squad he had earned a national call-up.
“I was watching with my family and just couldn’t believe when the Bulls managed to get the points they needed,” Botha told keo.co.za. “I was so disappointed I just wanted to turn the TV off.”
“Next thing I know I’m in the Bok squad and I’m over the moon. It actually all took a little while to sink in. Then I realised what a great honour it was to be included in the squad. We opened a bottle of champagne and had a few drinks,” he said.
Botha, who prefers do let his ability on the field do the talking, admitted that on the performance at Newlands the Bulls deserved to go through. “Good luck to the Bulls, I will be supporting them this weekend. I know it was close, but it is our fault we did not qualify. we should have been in a position where we didn’t need other teams to help us.”
The tighthead prop is under no illusion though that he has finally arrived. He realises that with 44 other players in the squad the competition for places in the trimmed down selection will start as soon as he sets foot in Bloemfontein.
“It’s not really Boks yet. It’s now up to the individuals to step up to the plate and show we can play. I’m sure Jake will be checking out a few combinations. I just want to go and do my best.”
White is expected to trim the squad to 32 for the Vodacom Incoming Tests against Scotland (two) and France (one) in a few weeks. Botha is prepared to work his socks off to make that final squad.
By Andrew Hollely