Former Springbok enforcer Bakkies Botha opened up on his love of stitches while he reminisced about his time with fellow rugby greats at French club Toulon.
Botha recently revisited Toulon for the club’s inaugural inductees into the Hall of Fame, where former Bok loose forward Joe van Niekerk was joined by Jonny Wilkinson, Marcel Bailette, Marcel Bodrero, Christian Carrere, André Herrero, Eric Champ and Jerome Gallion.
The former Springbok lock spent five seasons with Toulon between 2011 and 2015, winning three Champions Cup titles and one domestic league title.
In an interview with RMC Sport, Botha explained why he so enjoyed his time in the Top 14.
“I like the physical and brutal side of this game. I love it,” Botha said. “The more stitches and broken bones, the more I liked it. But I must confess today that my years in Toulon were the ones where I had the most injuries in my career.
“Matt Giteau told me not long ago that he remembers a kick-off in Agen and that he heard like the sound of a machine gun – I had broken my arm. In another game, I had a skull fracture.
“But that’s rugby … it’s hard and brutal.
“That’s why I came to France because I had seen a lot of Top 14 videos and when the weather is wet, you can’t escape easily.
“In the Top 14, the rugby suited me like a glove. It was a little slower than in Super 12, but it was much more physical and brutal. It was hard.
“That’s what I liked in Toulon. The Top 14 is a brutal competition, and you have to be at your best physical level to make the difference.”
Botha was part of a star-studded Toulon side, which included fellow Springboks Bryan Habana, Juan Smith and Danie Rossouw, but it was the opportunity to share a change room with some big names from overseas that drew him to France.
“Coming to a club like Toulon was just the icing on the cake,” Botha said.
“Meeting Jonny Wilkinson, Carl Hayman, Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell … one of the reasons I came was to discover Carl Hayman, who was already playing here. I still think today that he was one of the best tightheads in the world. And beyond the magnificent climate here, the sea, the environment, I wanted to play with Carl Hayman.
“I came here to play in a team where all the players were my enemies. They all played against me before, and then you arrive in Toulon, and you all have to play together. That’s what was special for me because the last three years of my career ended on a good note.”
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