• On the lighter side: Five greatest characters

    As we continue our new content offerings, CRAIG LEWIS picks five people regarded as the most colourful characters in the game.

    Bakkies Botha

    In an era where platitudes and cliches are commonplace in media conferences, it was a journalist’s dream when Botha was put forward for interviews.

    As uncompromising off the field as he was on it, Botha regularly left interviewers in hysterics with his comical chirps, while he was never afraid to talk openly and honestly about his expectations for an upcoming game.

    Just last year, Botha was typically frank when admitting he does not for a ‘single second’ regret an incident in 2010 when he head-butted All Blacks scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan.

    ‘That day in Auckland I was battling with Cowan following a kick. I was faster than him. I had passed him and he pulled me by the shirt to slow me down. When I caught up with him 10 metres away, I made him understand that I hadn’t liked it … I hate injustice.

    ‘It’s not something I’m proud of. I kind of dropped the Springboks that day. And Jimmy Cowan won the mini battle. But I would react in exactly the same way today.’

    Joe Marler

    There are very few modern-day players who are as entertaining and interesting as the England prop, who unsurprisingly is trying his hand as a podcast co-host as he heads towards retirement.

    There’s a good reason he has more than 100,000 Twitter followers, and even more on Instagram, where his wicked sense of humour is clear to see.

    Even on the field, he is never short of a good chirp, with a clip going viral in 2019 when he shouted ‘You’re f*cking boring me, hurry up!’ after scrumhalf Nic White took his time executing a box kick.

    There’s never a dull day when it comes to Marler.

    Nigel Owens

    The recently retired Test referee is renowned for his no-nonsense, and often comical, moments during an illustrious officiating career.

    Undoubtedly one of the best refs to have wielded the whistle, Owens also never took himself too seriously, and was only too happy to put players in their place with witty chirps.

    One moment that undoubtedly stands out is his putdown of Stuart Hogg during a 2015 Test against South Africa after the Scotland fullback had been spotted simulating a dive.

    ‘There was nothing wrong with [the tackle]. If you want to dive like that again, come back here in two weeks and play, not today,’ Owens chirped in reference to an upcoming soccer match taking place a couple weeks later.

    There’s no doubt Owens will be missed.

    Schalk Brits

    The World Cup-winning Springbok doesn’t have the nickname ‘Smiley’ for nothing. Brits became well known as one of the most affable and down-to-earth players in the game, with a smile always at the ready.

    As a regular member of the Barbarians team, which fostered a culture of old-school touring and off-field antics, Brits was a player who embodied this approach to the game.

    When he briefly returned to the Vodacom Bulls in 2019, this is how he described his outlook.

    ‘The fun part is the biggest part of rugby. Even now, I am going to have a beer with Malcolm Marx. I want to bring the old school and professionalism together. People can’t lose that essence. You fight hard on the pitch, and afterwards you have fun.’

    WATCH: Hookers’ hilarious jersey exchange

    Eddie Jones

    Love him or hate him, the England coach is undoubtedly one of the most colourful characters in the game. His media conferences are often filled with mind games, chirps and comical references.

    However, get him on a bad day (most often after a team defeat), and you can just as easily find yourself on the end of a tongue lashing.

    A couple of days after the 2019 World Cup semi-finals, Jones was in fine form when he responded to counterpart Warren Gatland’s suggestion that England could have already played their World Cup final when they beat New Zealand.

    ‘Well, guys, can you just send my best wishes to Warren to make sure he enjoys the third- and fourth-place playoff,’ he said.

    WATCH: Eddie pokes fun at NZ rugby

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    Craig Lewis