Bakkies 'a changed man'
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Edinburgh – Bakkies Botha has spent much of this season walking a disciplinary tightrope, and all too often falling unceremoniously off it ... but he is back on-side, insists long-time lock partner Victor Matfield.
Matfield told Sport24 at his captain’s press conference here on Friday ahead of the Scotland challenge that Botha channelling his aggression correctly over the course of the first two Grand Slam Tests had been both welcome and necessary.
“We felt before we came over here that Bakkies had learnt a lesson with his (various disciplinary issues) in mid-year. I felt strongly about that.
“He’s a changed man on the field. He is still the hard guy we need him to be, but now knows the laws he needs to perform within.
“He knew that if he didn’t, his place in the team might well be up for grabs.”
The rugged Bulls customer has gone about his donkeywork with relish against Ireland and Wales, while managing to stay well clear of the officials’ ire.
And his own lineout acumen, as a sometimes under-rated aid to leading light Matfield, will again be a valuable counter to any Scottish quest to eclipse the Boks at Murrayfield in a department they so cherish themselves.
“Nathan Hines coming in as blindside flank for Scotland makes our job that bit harder in the lineouts. We’re proud of our own lineout and will have to be as sharp as ever.”
Matfield also confirmed that scrumhalf Francois Hougaard was expected to be at his post against the Scots, after his minor “sniffle” scare earlier in the week.
“I haven’t seen Francois yet this morning so I don’t fully know what’s happening there, but I think he will be ready ... he’s a hard bugger.”
Asked which areas the Boks had specifically targeted for improvement in the lead-up to Murrayfield, Matfield said: “Quite a few. Accuracy is such a crucial thing in everything we do ... that and decision-making we want to sharpen up.
“We mustn’t give (Scotland) easy ball, mustn’t give them space or momentum – then we’ll definitely be in the game for a full 80 minutes.”