Bakkies Botha has bemoaned the state of modern rugby, as the former Springbok enforcer has claimed that the game no longer allows players to express themselves.
The 85-cap Bok carved a reputation as one of the game’s most feared enforcers, but was a master of toeing the line, only receiving four yellow cards and never getting sent off in his Test career.
Still, there is a sense that Botha would struggle to maintain a similar disciplinary record if he played today, especially as any sort of dangerous contact is immediately referred to a Television Match Official and generally harshly dealt with.
In an interview with Midi Olympique, Botha was asked about the state of the modern game and he was frank in his assessment.
“I understand the problem that World Rugby and its officials have at international level,” the 43-year-old told the French newspaper. “They have to protect the players, but our game has become frustrating, ground down and inconsistent.
“From one match to another, referees’ interpretations vary. In the stands or on the TV, people understand nothing.
“In my day, it seemed as though there were more personalities on the pitch. Today, players are all the same as each other. People called me an ‘enforcer’ – and I loved that!
“I found that it added spice to the spectacle – because professional sport is also that, a spectacle, isn’t it? The evolution of the laws has rid the sport of ‘enforcers’ in my mould; you cannot get away with scrapping in rucks like I did anymore.
“I don’t think that rugby today would suit me.”
Botha spent five seasons with Toulon between 2011 and 2015, winning three Champions Cup titles and one domestic league title. After moving to France from the Vodacom Bulls, Botha made just nine more Test appearances, his last coming in November 2014.
“I left for France in 2011 because international rugby no longer suited me,” Botha explained. “It had become too strategic, too cautious. It no longer allowed players to express their flair or their true nature.
“I discovered that the Top 14 did suit me, however: brutal, but within the laws. I loved it. I loved going to Agen, Brive, Grenoble; scrapping on greasy pitches. The worst injury of my career, I experienced in the Top 14. In Brive, someone broke my arm.
“The Top 14 was slower than Super Rugby but it was also a lot more physical. If you aren’t ready, the Top 14 chews you, breaks you, and spits you out. One day, in Agen, I tackled a guy. He didn’t like it and, as he was getting up, he stuck his boot into my head.
“I left the pitch with 15 stitches.”
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