Super 14
Botha delighted to be back in action
May 4, 2010
Bulls lock Bakkies Botha in action during a training session, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, South Africa, May 20, 2009
Botha returned to Bulls colours for the victory over South African rivals the Sharks on Saturday © Getty Images

Bulls lock Bakkies Botha made his long-awaited return from injury against the Sharks on Saturday and immediately welcomed the faster nature of the game under the new law interpretations.

The Springboks stalwart, who has been sidelined with an Achilles heel injury since the end of last year, completed 40 minutes of the Bulls' 27-19 win over their South African rivals that cemented their place at top of the Super 14 table and kept the defending champions on course for a home semi-final. And following his winning return, the 30-year-old was full of praise for the move to clean up the tackled ball, scrum and kick return areas of the game.

"I think the game has become a bit faster because the ball is in play longer and that gives us big guys more opportunities to take the ball up to the opposition," Botha told SuperSport. "With that small adjustment to the law you have to be a bit fitter than two, three years ago. When looking at the tactical kicking patterns of teams I believe you have to be a bit more mobile or lighter than in the past,"

"Especially with my role in the team the extra split second at the breakdown allows for a bit more time to inflict more damage at the breakdown or to clear the rucks. What is really positive for me is to see than the team has adapted so well since the start of the season and they proved guys like [Waratahs flanker] Phil Waugh wrong after said that we would be penalised for standing around rucks like ticks."

After returning to the domestic stage, Botha is now eyeing an international return ahead of a busy international season for the Springboks that kicks off against Wales on June 5 although the Bulls' interest in the Super 14 post-season and the scheduling of the final on May 29 suggests their leading players may be missing from the equation for that game.

"I am a bit stiff after the weekend's game but we are working hard and I am very happy and satisfied. I played without experiencing any pain and I am very pleased about it," he said. "The good thing is that it tested my ankle in conditions conducive to injuries and I came through with flying colours. Obviously I need to improve my match fitness but it is going well and I should be there in the next couple of games.

"Initially I didn't think I was going to be out this long, but seeing the guys play so well every weekend has forced me to put extra pressure on myself to work harder in training," he added. "Coming back into a team with a winning culture and clear goals is great and I realised that I have to make a significant contribution as there are guys like Flip [Van der Merwe] and Danie [Rossouw] who have been playing great rugby in my position."


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