Bakkies vs Brad at Loftus
Pretoria – Bakkies Botha is ready for Brad Thorn and whoever else comes along his path in the Super 14.
The fiery Bulls lock was delighted at making his first start of the year against the Sharks at the weekend and is now eager to get his game to “the high standards of my team-mates” as soon as possible.
The next step to that is Friday night against the Crusaders, for whom Thorn has proved himself as New Zealand’s version of Botha.
“We will always respect the Crusaders as a team. Their history is testimony to that (them deserving of respect) and I believe they will come to Loftus to prove a point,” Botha said from next to the Bulls’ soaking wet training field.
“But that does not mean you can’t get stuck into them. Thorn is a tough opponent, but I’m ready for him.”
The wet fields of the past week or two boosted Botha’s confidence.
“Yes, on the one hand it was a good thing that the fields were so wet as it placed more pressure on the ankle and that is why I’m very satisfied with how I came through training and matches, even if my body is stiff,” he said.
Botha feels it was also to his advantage that there were more rolling mauls.
“The game is then contested on my terms a little more. I’m happy when there are more mauls,” he said.
The new interpretation of the breakdown laws have required Botha to adapt, but he enjoys it.
“The new laws lead to more mauls, so I enjoy it,” he said.
“The ball is in play more, but it gives the bigger guys chance to carry the ball more often. You definitely have to be fitter than a year or two ago.”
Botha is as delighted to be joining the side as his team-mates are about welcoming him back.
“I did not expect to be out of action for so long, but am eager to do my bit again. The other locks in the team played superbly when I was not there, so I have big shoes to fill,” said Botha.
“That is why I want to be ready as soon as possible. The match fitness is not there yet, but I’m working hard to get to the same level as my team-mates.”
According to Botha, the one thing that has not changed about the Bulls’ game is their ability to remain patient.
“The team is older and wiser and there is a lot of experience in the brains trust. The game is analysed, we adapt and the correct decisions are taken on the field,” said Botha.
“Look at how often we trail at half-time. But by staying patient we manage to turn it around.”
Botha believes the team’s spiritual and physical approach is right.
“We just need to fine-tune a little every week. If we’re clinical and use our chances, we will win on Friday.”