Botha’s Test career to be decided against Scotland

Springbok enforcer Bakkies Botha’s future Test career will be on the line when he returns to the Test stage against Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday.

The thirty-four-year-old Botha has already won 76 caps for South Africa but has not played for his country since the Rugby World cup in 2011.

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer has given the Toulon lock the chance to re-establish himself as a Springbok, two years and two months after Botha’s last appearance for his country – against Namibia at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand – selecting the veteran alongside Flip van der Merwe in the second row.

Asked whether Botha would be part of his long-term planning, on the road to the 2015 World Cup in England, Meyer replied: “I had a discussion with Bakkies this (Thursday) morning.”

“I first want to see if he’s still good enough to play for South Africa. We want to see what he can do.

“He’s brought some fresh vibes to the squad and he’s been really good in training,” Meyer said of the 2007 World Cup-winner.

“I’ve coached Bakkies since he was 20-years-old and he’s in the best condition I’ve seen him in. He’s lost a lot of weight. He’s very fit and really mobile again.”

Eben Etzebeth drops to the bench to accommodate Botha, who made his debut against France in Marseille in November 2002.

Meyer has made three other changes in personnel to the Springbok side that started the 24-15 win against Wales in Cardiff last weekend.

Loosehead prop Gurthro Steenkamp and hooker Adriaan Strauss come into the front row in place of, respectively, Tendai Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis, who drop to the bench.

Willie le Roux starts at fullback, Pat Lambie switching to outside-half to cover for Morne Steyn, who suffered a back spasm against Wales but who has been named among the replacements.

There could also be a further change at openside flanker. Siya Kolisi is standing by to make his first start if Willem Alberts fails to recover from a shoulder problem.

Meyer has one eye on the final match of the tour, against France in Paris a week on Saturday, but remains wary of the Scots, who inflicted a 21-17 defeat on the Springboks at Murrayfield in 2010.

“Every game we play against them is tough,” Meyer said. “I think their biggest strength is at the breakdown. We always struggle to get quick ball against them.”

Scotland, under the charge of interim head coach Scott Johnson, have recalled their chief breakdown operator, openside flanker John Barclay replacing captain Kelly Brown in the number seven jersey.

Johnson has made five other changes to the Scotland team that beat Japan 42-17 last Saturday.

Props Alasdair Dickinson and Moray Low, and locks Jim Hamilton and Richie Gray come into the home pack, while Duncan Taylor replaces the injured Matt Scott at inside centre, a first start for the Saracens utility back. Gray’s uncapped 19-year-old brother and fellow lock Jonny is on the bench.

“Generating competition for spots is what we’re about in this series,” Johnson said, explaining the reasoning behind his rotation policy. “We’ve got to take the opportunity to look at players. It will be good for us in the long term.

“Everyone wants to go to heaven but no one is prepared to die,” the Australian added.

“You need to do it sometime and we are going to do it now. We are 22 months out from the World Cup and there has to be growth in this team.”

Match Official
Referee:
Jerome Garces (FRA)

Teams

Scotland

Sean Maitland; Tommy Seymour, Nick De Luca, Duncan Taylor, Sean Lamont; Ruaridh
Jackson, Greig Laidlaw (capt); David Denton, John Barclay, Alasdair Strokosch,
Jim Hamilton, Richie Gray; Moray Low, Ross Ford, Alasdair Dickinson

Replacements: Scott Lawson, Ryan Grant, Geoff Cross, Jonny Gray, Johnnie Beattie,
Chris Cusiter, Duncan Weir, Max E

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