23 Nov 2014

Bakkies Botha retires from Springboks

10:42 am on 23 November 2014

The Springbok lock and Rugby World Cup winner Bakkies Botha has announced his retirement from international rugby.

Bakkies Botha of South Africa celebrates his try with Willie le Roux of South Africa and Ruan Pienaar of South Africa.

Bakkies Botha of South Africa celebrates his try with Willie le Roux of South Africa and Ruan Pienaar of South Africa. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Botha made his Test debut in November 2002 against France in Marseille, while his 85th and final appearance for South Africa was last Sunday, when he came on as a replacement in the 31-28 victory over England at Twickenham.

During a stellar career, the 35-year-old lock won the Rugby World Cup with the Springboks in 2007 and was victorious at almost every other level of the game.

He has winners' medals from the Rugby Championship (Tri-Nations), British & Irish Lions Series, Super Rugby, Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup, as well as the Heineken Cup and French Top 14.

Botha is the seventh most-capped Springbok of all time, is a three-time SA Rugby Player of the Year nominee (2003, 2004 and 2005) and holds the world record for the most Tests as a lock combination in the starting line-up with Victor Matfield (63).

"The news of my retirement will probably be described as sudden and unexpected, but it is a decision that I've been mulling over since 2011," said Botha.

"When I limped off the field during the Rugby World Cup in 2011 with an Achilles injury, I knew that I did not leave on my terms and that I didn't say goodbye to the Bok jersey like I had wanted to.

"What was 'my terms'? I wanted to leave the jersey behind knowing I honoured the men who wore it before me, as well as the people who had supported me throughout my career.

"More importantly, I wanted to show to the men who would go on to play in the jersey after me what it meant to put your life on the line for your country and the Springboks. I did not manage to do that and it left a burning desire within me to keep on working hard to perhaps don that famous jersey one more time.

"I recovered fully from my injury and was privileged enough to be involved with a world-class French club. I had wonderfully supportive team-mates and supporters at Toulon in France, but deep inside, I still had a burning desire to play just one more time for South Africa.

"I am a religious man and I asked for guidance and how to deal with this desire I still had in me."

"When Coach Heyneke (Meyer) selected me for the end-of-year tour last November, to mentor young players and to possibly spend one more minute on the field in Green and Gold with the leaping springbok on my chest, I knew that my prayers had been answered."

"I'm planning to finish my contract with Toulon and defend our titles this season. And who knows, perhaps there is a province in South Africa who can see me add value to their Currie Cup campaign next year and I can play my final match in my beloved country of birth before finally hanging up my boots at the end of 2015 at all levels of the game."