Departing Munster tighthead prop BJ Botha
DEPARTING Munster tighthead prop BJ Botha says the province has pulled off a ‘great coup’ in appointing Rassie Erasmus as their first Director of Rugby.
World Cup winner Botha is leaving Munster after five seasons when he amassed 111 appearances for the province.
A serious knee injury sustained while playing against Stade Francais in the Champions Cup in Paris in January, prematurely ended 36-year-old Botha’s playing involvement with Munster.
Botha said he was disappointed on a personal level that he would not have the chance to play under Erasmus who takes up his new role on July 1.
Renowned scrummager Botha said: ”I played against Rassie (Erasmus) when he played for the Cheetahs and he was technical advisor for the Springboks in about 2010-2011.
“He was a really clever player, very innovative and knows his rugby backwards. He has been involved in rugby a long time, obviously involved with the Stormers, the Cheetahs. He brought a young Cheetahs side through to win the Currie Cup, our coveted trophy in South Africa.
“He was the Stormers Director of Rugby and more recently worked with the high performance side of things with the Springboks. He has been touted as a possible Springbok coach of the future.
“It is a great coup for Munster. He will relish the opportunity to push the side forward. He will be great with the youngsters, great for the organisation.
“Obviously, there will be big challenges, but I think he will do well. If you had to chose a man who was right for the job, I don't think you could choose any better. All those things are extremely positive.
“It is great for Munster, but I am disappointed for myself that I am not moving on with Munster. It is going to be an exciting place.”
2007 World Cup winner Botha believes the prospect of touring his native South Africa with Ireland for three Tests this summer is one Munster forward CJ Stander will ‘embrace massively’.
“I think CJ will not do anything other than embrace it massively, couldn't be more excited.
“It could not have come at a better time. This is his first year as an international. He is going to one of the toughest places in the world to play rugby against his own countrymen and basically he is going to love it. That is the kind of player he is.
“It is going to be a tough series for both teams.
“It is going to be a great spectacle for CJ, hugely exciting. The supporters like we know in South Africa are very patriotic and he'll be aware of what is coming his way from a players and supporters perspective.
“He has done it all to date and he is likely to stand up again and show why he is playing at this level.”
Botha has spent eight years in Ireland in total, his three seasons at Ulster followed by five at Munster.
“Now I look back, it is almost the same length of time I had with the Sharks in South Africa. That is a big chunk of my career.
“The culture, the people and obviously the rugby part brought me initially. It is a big part of our lives. We become citizens now in the next few months, we become Irish passport holders.
“All that is kind of evolving. All my children were born in Ireland, the North and the South, so it's a massive part of our lives whether we continue to live here or we leave.
“It is difficult to compare Limerick and Belfast. We are more in the country here in Limerick. When I used to live in South Africa I used to live in the country, outside of the city.
“In Belfast, I lived in the city. It's a big city. I would compare it to Dublin. There are positives and negatives in that, fast pace of lifestyle, here it's a bit more laid back.
“Both clubs have been great challenges and allowed me express myself rugby wise. The team aspect is massive and that is the one thing I have enjoyed because you are only as strongest as your weakest link.
“The Irish set-up stands by that too because you need to find different ways and means of beating some of the bigger sides, through Ulster and Munster, players playing for each other. That is them in a nutshell.”
Botha has already dipped his toes into coaching and it is something he enjoys.
“I am very passionate about the scrum, but also leading up the youth set-up. I am keen on that, from U-20 group. They are impressionable.
“They are players, especially in the front row, that can still make decisions in terms of do they want to play loosehead or tighthead. You can instil knowledge in them and create good habits going forward. I did some hands on coaching through the Rob Penney era and obviously with Jerry (Flannery) coming on board, we chat to each other regularly.
“I did some coaching with Garryowen on a small consultancy basis, just working with the front rows, helping the forwards operate. It’s something I enjoy.”
Despite the disappointing season, Botha is optimistic about Munster’s future.
“We have had a youth injection. The average age is 22 or 23. What they need is to be given gametime like they have.
“They showed in the last two Pro12 games how they can put things together. The biggest thing with us is consistency. The lack of depth is something that needs to be looked at too.”