Botha returns for Boks

Springbok second row Bakkies Botha returns to action this afternoon as the World Champions take on Wales in Cardiff. [more]

Botha returns for Boks

Springbok second row Bakkies Botha returns to action this afternoon as the World Champions take on Wales in Cardiff.

The World Cup winner missed the later part of the Tri Nations campaign as a result of a knee injury but he insists the rest has done him the world of good just seven months out from the 2009 Lions tour.

“After almost four months lying down with my knee injury, I’m feeling young and feeling good and that’s what it’s all about,” said Botha, who hasn’t played since the 16-9 defeat to Australia in Perth on July 19.

”It’s my first game back after injury but I’m looking forward to it. Practices went well and I’ve had no hassle with my knee any more and the body has recovered from all the niggles.

“I’m going to give it my all and the guys are going to let me know how long I can play with my knee. Some of the guys don’t want to push it too far but I’m not looking for this time and for that time, I just want to go on the field and give it 100 percent until I can’t anymore and then they will replace me. The rest has gone really well but, for me, it’s back to business.”

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Today’s match may be the immediate focus but it’s not just British and Irish players, coaches and supporters who already have their hearts set on the Lions series in South Africa next summer.

“It’s a big tour for us against Wales, Scotland and England as we must start getting the ball rolling for next year’s British & Irish Lions, because, after these three Test matches, the next game is the Lions in South Africa. 

“A Lions tour is amazing. It’s like a World Cup. It’s only every 12 years that they come to South Africa and it’s a blessing as a rugby player to play the Lions. Hopefully, I’m blessed and I’m still fit next year for 2009 when the Lions come to South Africa.”

For now, the Boks turn their attention to 2.30 this afternoon when they kick-off their three-match UK tour in front of a capacity crowd at the Millennium Stadium. Botha started both victories over Warren Gatland’s men during the summer but the Blue Bulls giant is expecting a tough examination from the Grand Slam winners.

“It’s going to be a hard one. As a player, I respect the Wales team. They’re not Six Nations Champions for nothing.

“They’re hard guys and we know it’s going to be a hard game. They have home ground advantage and we’re looking forward to a hard Test match. All our energy and focus goes into playing Wales this weekend. We’ve prepared very well this week and I know we are 100-percent ready.”

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