Botes set for Currie Cup record
Durban - While the focus of this week's Currie Cup action will be concentrated on the return of the Springboks to their respective unions, spare a thought for Jacques Botes.
The veteran Sharks loose forward is set to break a significant record by becoming the most capped player in the competition's history.
Botes will win his 143rd cap should he take to the field against Western Province at Kings Park on Saturday - surpassing the record he currently shares with legendary Free State Cheetahs back Helgard Muller.
"It's humbling really to get to the record," said the 32-year-old, who is among the replacements for the weekend clash.
"I think in time, I'll look back and treasure the fact that I was able to be associated with a great competition like the Currie Cup for so long and my name will be written in its history.
"I'm sure one day someone will come along and better the record too, but until then it will be really nice to hold the record."
Botes, who has captained the Sharks for a large part of this Currie Cup season, will be playing his 117th match for the KwaZulu-Natal union, with his 26 other appearances coming in the jersey of the Pumas, who he debuted for 11 years and one month ago against the SWD Eagles.
"I recall that day very clearly," he said.
"I only joined the Pumas in the latter part of the season and we had to win the game by 28 points or so to stay at the top of the Currie Cup [first division], which we did."
While his record took a little over a decade, and still with a few playing years potentially ahead of him, Muller needed 15 years to reach the mark and was already 35.
"Obviously it's been there for quite a number of years and it puts into perspective how many years Helgard had to play because back then they played less games than we did per season," Botes said.
"So he had a number of more seasons than I did."
There are two big reasons which enabled the Johannesburg-born flanker, who was once on the books of the Blue Bulls playing Under-21s, to reach the record.
He has not had Springbok duty to contend with and has stayed injury free.
"Nowadays if you play Springboks you don’t play a lot of Currie Cup.
"The main thing I guess is I have been blessed injury wise."
Botes, also the most capped Sharks player in history, is currently in talks with the Durban union to extend his contract beyond the end of the season, although he cannot see himself playing for another union in the future.
"With the new management, they're looking at a process where the union benefits by having senior and experienced players here to help with the next batch of players," he adds.
"I'm hoping I'll be one of those guys and look forward to a few more years of playing."
15. SP Marais, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Tim Whitehead, 12. Heimar Williams, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Fred Zeilinga, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Keegan Daniel (captain), 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4. Peet Marais, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Stephan Lewies, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Cobus Reinach, 21. Patrick Lambie, 22. Louis Ludik
15. Gio Aplon, 14. Gerhard van den Heever, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Cheslin Kolbe, 10. Demetri Catrakilis, 9. Louis Schreuder, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Siya Kolisi, 6. Deon Fourie (captain), 5. De Kock Steenkamp, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Pat Cilliers, 2. Scarra Ntubeni, 1. Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16. Frans Malherbe, 17. Brok Harris, 18. Michael Rhodes, 19. Schalk Burger, 20. Nic Groom, 21. Kurt Coleman, 22. Jean de Villiers