Former Bok flank Arno Botha has aspirations of a recall to the national team ahead of the July Tests against Scotland and Georgia.
Botha has been in fine form during this season’s PRO14 competition, and even scored a hat-trick against the Southern Kings this past weekend, as his Munster side ran riot.
The burly eighthman, who was capped twice for the Springboks before injury curtailed his national chances, has impressed those watching him in the PRO14 to such an extent that his performances may well have caught the eye of the Springbok management team.
While there is always surplus loose-forward talent in South Africa, the former Vodacom Bulls back rower admits he still dreams about pulling the Bok jersey over his head once more.
‘It will always be something. It isn’t something that will die easily,’ admitted Botha. ‘I still have the desire to be the best, even though it might seem like a long road, or that it is just around the corner, but I will work every day as if it is the day I can perform to my optimal form.
‘I always say, if I stop hoping to play for South Africa then I might stop playing rugby. Then there is no motivation to do it. I love rugby and love playing at the top level. To play for your country is the best way to prove that. I definitely have hope for that.’
While he realises that it will be difficult to garner the attention of the national selectors while playing for Munster, Botha credited the players in current Bok squad and revealed that he is up for the challenge of continuing his good form.
‘If it is more difficult to do it from Munster, then it is fine and it is a challenge. I knew that going there,’ said Botha. ‘The guys in the team are doing a good job and they deserve it. You can’t take anything away from that team at the moment, they perform to a high level.’
Botha explained that while most South African players in Europe would be looking towards the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour, he is hoping to catch the selector’s eye for the upcoming mid-year Tests.
‘That is definitely one of my goals. Not just 2021 but 2020 July Tests, November Tests, Rugby Championship,’ said Botha. ‘But the first step is to perform week in and out for Munster, and I can’t do more than that. They can’t pick me if I don’t do what I have to do. It is up to me to do it.
‘My motivation is there and I am excited to challenge myself against guys I am playing against. I have to challenge myself to be better than them. That excites me every week to see if I can do it.’
After several years of injuries hampering his game, his time at Munster has been the answer to his prayers. Botha’s injuries are gone and now he is enjoying every minute he gets on the playing field.
‘I think back about it a lot. If you think about the injuries in 2013 and 2014 on my knees, and then I couldn’t get a break in 2015 – where I got a hammy, a back injury and my shoulder,’ said Botha. ‘ Then in 2017 I had a shoulder [injury], so it didn’t work out well.
‘But now I’ve played more than 30 games without niggles. I’m very blessed and fortunate. The guys at Munster look well after me and I’m enjoying my time there. I’m fortunate to be in a team that is top five in Europe at the moment. I enjoy my work because I’m at one of the top clubs and anything else is just an add-on.
‘It is difficult to get to a mindset where I say I’m in the same form, because it was five or six years ago, it is a long time. But I’m not far off it. I don’t think I’ve been this fit and strong, and feeling good about myself in a long time. You get confidence from playing.’
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