Former Springbok lock Bakkies Botha was known as one of the hardest men in rugby – and it’s a tag he carries proudly.
The burly former second rower made headlines earlier this week when he recalled in an exclusive interview with French rugby publication Midi Olympique that he had no regrets head-butting All Blacks scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan in a Test 10 years ago.
In the same interview, Botha said may have played in the wrong era, reminiscing back to previous decades when players got away with more brutality on the field.
“Today, things have changed. We leave the field for a black eye. Player safety is obviously a priority.
But hey, me at the time when I played, I liked when the context hardened. I liked it when the fight got wilder.
“The other day, during a charity dinner, a former Springbok coach told me that I was born to hurt others. It’s true, on the field, I liked to see fear in the eyes of my opponents,” Botha said.
Earlier this month, Botha was included in former Wales prop Graham Price’s top 10 list of the “hardest rugby players who ever lived”.
Describing Botha, Price wrote via a column for the Wales Online website: “In an era when it has been more difficult to ‘assert yourself’ as a hard man because there are so many TV cameras around these days, he was still able to stand out as the Springboks’ enforcer for a decade.
“Let’s just say he was able to keep the tradition going of the hardest of South African second rows. Botha helped beat up the Lions in 2009 in what were brutal modern-day Test matches.”
Botha was excited after hearing he made Price’s list, saying: “I was ninth. In front of me, there was only Jerry Collins and French forwards from the 80s!
“They wore moustaches, big headbands around their ears. They always had their eyes closed by a swollen black eye. They couldn’t see anything. I would have dreamed of playing in the French championship of the 80s. It was terrible. If you took a hit, you had to give it back.”
Botha, now 40, played 85 Tests for the Springboks between 2002 and 2014.
He represented the Bulls between 2002 and 2011, winning three Super Rugby titles with the Pretoria franchise before moving to France where he played for Toulon with whom he won three European Champions Cup titles and one Top 14 crown.
He retired from professional rugby in 2015.
WATCH in the video clip below featuring the hard-as-nails Botha in full force:
– Compiled by Sport24 staff