The East Terrace
Repentant Botha seeks inner peace
July 23, 2010
Botha is currently serving a nine-week ban for head-butting New Zealand scrum-half Jimmy Cowan © Getty Images
South African lock Bakkies Botha has revealed to the world that he intends to use his recently imposed nine-week ban from the playing field to 'resolve certain anger management issues that have plagued him throughout his career'.
The World Cup-winner, who bears the nickname 'The Enforcer' among team mates, is currently serving a suspension for headbutting New Zealand scrum-half Jimmy Cowan in the opening match of this season's Tri-Nations. The butt was initially missed by match officials but was later punished by the citing officer (Botha also received a yellow card in the same match for another offence).
But Botha's ban is only the latest in an often controversial career. His 2002 international debut against France was marred by a sin-binning for stamping. In 2003 he was cleared of biting but found guilty of 'attacking the face' against Australia. Last year was the most eventful in his career with bans for striking Phil Waugh in a Super 14 match and for his vigorous and dangerous rucking activity against the British & Irish Lions (during an incident which saw Welsh prop Adam Jones suffer a dislocated shoulder).
The 6'7'' second row, who will miss the rest of this season's Tri-Nations as a result of his latest ban, has declared his intention to step back and look and what is causing him to act so aggressively time and time again.
"He who lives in harmony with himself, lives in harmony with the universe," said Botha. "Too often I've not lived by those wise words and I'm the one who suffers because of it. Well, maybe it's not just me that suffers, but possibly as well the person I fouled or hit in the head, but you know what I am saying."
A double winner of the Super 14, Botha admits he has to learn to let things go a bit more on the rugby field: "I can't get too involved in lashing out or punishing the guy on the opposition who is perhaps killing the ball, or throwing himself about a bit. After all: if you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another. I tried to share that bit of wisdom with Victor Matfield last week but he just called me a big girl and told me to 'man up'."
Sources close to Botha claim he has already put his Sylvester Stallone and Jean-Claude Van Damme DVDs on eBay to try and limit his exposure to any macho or violent imagery in his leisure time. A local video clerk even informed a regional newspaper that he has recently begun to rent out films like Amélie, Mamma Mia, You've Got Mail and Twilight.
"A couple of the guys are ribbing me about the whole affair," said Botha. "And at first I found it a bit tough as usually everyone is kinda scared of me. But then I thought: 'Does anyone really think Rambo was any less manly because he hung round in a Thai monastery in Rambo III? Not at all. Everyone is still scared of Rambo and he's as tough as they come. Just because I'm planning to read a little bit of Paulo Coelho once in a while, doesn't mean I can't play hard, but fair of course, on the rugby paddock."
While the rugby disciplinary committees may welcome Botha's shock decision, not everyone is enamoured of his choice to try and calm his inner demons. Sport talk shows on South African television and radio have been full of worried fans who are panicking that Botha will lose his tough edge.
"We need 'The Enforcer', not Gandhi," was one of the comments thrown about by a bemused fan.
Despite the vocal opposition of Springbok fans, Botha is not daunted by the obstacles in his path to enlightenment: "I know things will be hard, but I'm learning to forgive. Inner peace can be reached only when we practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past, and is therefore the means for correcting our misperceptions. Having said that, if I get a chance in the future to smash someone when the ref isn't looking, I probably will."
Other 'peaceful moments' in rugby history:
1905: New Zealand forward Frank Glasgow leaves the inaugural All Blacks tour to the UK and Ireland to form an alternative peace commune in Cornwall. His departure is even more shocking as it comes midway through the 15-0 win over Ireland in Dublin.
1964: In the second half of a 12-6 victory in a Test against France, Colin 'Pinetree' Meads briefly flirts with Buddhism.
1980: Welsh forward Paul Ringer spends so long wondering whether to avoid violently tackling John Horton at Twickenham in the Five Nations, he ends up half violently late tackling him and is sent off for his troubles.
1995: South African winger James Small publishes his memoir on the life and times of executed Roman pacifist Saint Maximilian of Tebessa.
2000 - Present: Irish and Munster fly-half Ronan O'Gara develops 'non-contact' style of tackling to avoid ever causing pain and suffering to anyone. Ever.
James Stafford is editor of The East Terrace (www.theeastterrace.com) - an offside view of life in the rugby world