Bakkies Botha ready for Bok call
The Heineken Cup winner says he is at the peak of his performance and ready to join the Boks.
JOHANNESBURG - Springbok lock Bakkies Botha, fresh from winning the Heineken Cup, and with a French Top 14 title locked firmly in his sights, has declared himself ready and willing should Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer decide to recall him to international duty.
Speaking to Eyewitness News Sport just days after their dramatic 16-15 win over rivals Clermont-Auvergne, Botha says that he hasn't had contact with the national coach, but is in the form of his life at the moment.
"I always say to people it's not in my hands, at the end of the day it's in God's hands and I just want to keep myself as fit as possible so if there comes a call through then I'll be ready."
"I love it in Toulon, I'm just happy we can win a trophy like the Heineken Cup. I don't know what the future holds for me but I just want to keep myself healthy and fit."
The 33 year-old played his 76th and last Test for the Springboks at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand against Namibia, before his tournament was cut short through injury. He says that Toulon's achievement shows his hunger and desire is as strong as ever.
"It (Heineken Cup title) shows that I didn't just come overseas to collect my pension or retire. We're putting in the hard yards, the Heineken Cup Final and the winning of it, shows the outside world that we're not in Toulon to have a nice holiday and get some good money to retire.
"We work hard and the way we work hard means that we can still participate with international teams."
Botha, along with teammate Danie Rossouw, are South Africa's most decorated rugby players in terms of the range of trophies won. They've both secured a Rugby world Cup, a Tri-Nations, a British and Irish Lions series, a Super Rugby title, winners of the Currie Cup as well as the Vodacom Cup.
"It's a very big achievement for Danie and I to be part of; from the Vodacom Cup right through to the Heieneken Cup. At the end of the day, we're blessed that we can still play rugby at this level."
Botha says their win in Dublin will long live in the memory but for them and the fans they'll refocus quickly ahead of the Top 14 semifinal against Toulouse on Friday in Nantes.
"It was an amazing occasion and the guys enjoyed themselves after the game and a little bit more on Sunday. But it's back to work this morning, we're playing Toulouse on Friday so the work never stops.
"It's amazing, it's definitely one of the top victories of my career and we're just enjoying it but like I said it's hard work ahead with Toulouse this weekend."
Club President Mourad Boudjellal, who has assembled a squad including some of the biggest names in the sport including the likes of Matt Giteau, Jonny Wilkinson, Rocky Elsom, Juan Martin Fernandez-Lobbe, Fred Michalak, Chris Masoe and club captain Joe van Niekerk, led the squad in their traditional war cry in the change room post-match.
"There was a Pilou-Pilou," Botha said: "and everybody was happy. The day when I signed with Toulon it was one of my goals. I came to win trophies and that's definitely a special one, it's the first one to take back to Toulon."
Fly-half Jonny Wilkinson has been instrumental in Toulon's success in recent years and kicked 11 points in their narrow win over Clermont. He's opted not to be selected for the upcoming British and Irish Lions tour of Australia. It's a decision that Botha says he respects and is good for Toulon but that he could have played an integral part in a Lions victory Down Under.
"I still believe that he's one of the best fly-halves currently in the world, he showed it through the playoffs. It's just a privilege for me to play in a team with Jonny as our 10."
"I'll be honest, I definitely think Jonny can make a difference in the Lions squad, but the decision he took was that he doesn't want to travel with the Lions. I respect that decision as long as he kicks the points for Toulon and we can bring some silverware back for Toulon then I'm happy."
With potentially two matches left in Toulon's season Botha says it's been one of the longest he's ever played, but could see him and Rossouw add yet another title to the glistening collection.
"Hopefully if everything works out according to plan then hopefully we can win the Top 14 in 2 week's time. So far it's been a wonderful career for me and for Danie as well, and we just cherish every moment. It's a big journey for us and we're still enjoying it until the day that we hang up our boots."