Craig Lewis

Botha’s been a tower of strength

Ruan Botha Ruan Botha

Sharks captain Ruan Botha has emerged as another player who can add real value to the Springboks’ rich second-row resources, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

It’s already been a year to remember for Botha, who emerged as a standout performer in Super Rugby, featured for South Africa A against the French Barbarians and was then named Sharks captain for the Currie Cup.

Understandably then, an ever-ready smile has been regularly plastered across the face of the big man, although when thrust into on-field action, the 25-year-old has boasted a new hard edge to his play.

After enduring some injury struggles in his first year with the Sharks, following his move from the Stormers in 2016, Botha has unequivocally come of age this season.

The family culture advocated by Sharks CEO Gary Teichmann and coach Rob du Preez has brought out the best in Botha, who has led the team with the sort of poise and presence that bears similarities to the time when the equally affable Johann Muller held the captaincy reins.

Botha was again at his bullocking best in this past Saturday’s semi-final against the Blue Bulls, with the athleticism of the big lock aptly illustrated when he charged down a box-kick, snapped up the loose ball and scored under the posts.

It’s the sort of thing Botha has been doing all season, with the industrious second-rower boasting a work engine that has seen him popping up to make an impact in various facets of play.

With Botha again claiming the Man of the Match award this past Saturday, it was unsurprising to hear Du Preez speak of his captain as a man he felt certainly deserved a look-in for the Boks’ upcoming end-of-year squad.

WATCH: Sharks press conference

Unfortunately for Botha, though, the Boks are blessed with immense depth at No 5, where Franco Mostert, Lood de Jager and Pieter-Steph du Toit are already all battling it out for a starting berth.

Mostert may have started out the international season as the Boks’ first-choice No 5, but Du Toit was outstanding when he got an opportunity to start against Australia in Perth, while De Jager made up for lost time when he starred against the All Blacks in Cape Town.

However, Botha has now staked a compelling case to at least be next in line, with his consistent performances throughout 2017 seeing him emerge as a conceivable contender for the Boks’ four-Test end-of-year tour.

That national squad will be named the day after the Currie Cup final, with Botha perhaps having one last opportunity to draw the attention of the Bok coaches.

Whatever the case may be, there is no doubt that some already-healthy competition is only growing in terms of the national options at No 5, while the good news is that Botha, De Jager, Du Toit and Mostert are all under 27 years of age.

While that bodes well for the 2019 World Cup, there remains a desperate need for similar competitiveness and options to be developed in the No 4 lock position, where Eben Etzebeth continues to carry a hefty workload.

Regardless of that, the time has surely come to acknowledge Botha in a national context, with the Sharks skipper having been a tower of strength throughout this year. A Bok call-up shouldn’t be too far away.

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Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

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