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Bakkies relishing Test return

 Nov 16,2013
Written by: SARugby.com Editor
 

Springbok lock Bakkies Botha is anticipating a tough recall to Test rugby when the Springboks face Scotland at Edinburgh's Murrayfield on Sunday.

Now with French club Toulon, the 34-year-old Botha last played for South Africa more than two years ago at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

But Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has given the 76-times capped Botha, a member of South Africa's 2007 World Cup-winning team, a chance to revive his international career.

"The Scottish team ended third in the Six Nations last year and they are a phenomenal side," said Botha.

"Now recently a lot of Scottish players are playing in the French league as well, especially in the lock position like Richie Gray, so that makes them a good side as well."

Both teams come into their second matches of the end-of-year campaign on the back of wins, the Springboks having seen off Wales 24-15 in Cardiff and Scotland overpowering Japan 42-17.

While South Africa will kick off as favourites, Botha said the memory of playing in Scotland's 21-17 win over the Springboks at Murrayfield in 2010 would guard against complacency.

"I remember the Test match when I was last involved with the Springboks, the Scottish are very physical at the breakdowns and definitely, when their tails are up, it's a difficult side to keep with on the day."

Botha insisted he never gave up hope of playing for his country again.

"I'm more happy about it than surprised. The day when I left for France two years ago I always said to myself every morning when I get up and go to the gym in Toulon, I still want to play in the green and gold."

Meyer, asked whether Botha would be part of his long-term planning for the 2015 World Cup in England, replied: "I first want to see if he's still good enough to play for South Africa. We want to see what he can do."

Eben Etzebeth drops to the bench to accommodate Botha, who made his debut against France in Marseille in November 2002.

Meyer has made three other changes in personnel to the Springbok side that started against Wales.

Loosehead prop Gurthro Steenkamp and hooker Adriaan Strauss come into the front row in place of, respectively, Tendai Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis, who drop to the bench.

Willie le Roux starts at fullback, Pat Lambie switching to outside-half to cover for Morne Steyn, who suffered a back spasm against Wales but who has been named among the replacements.

Scotland, under the charge of interim head coach Scott Johnson, have recalled their chief breakdown operator, openside flanker John Barclay replacing captain Kelly Brown in the number seven jersey.

Johnson has made five other changes to the Scotland team that beat Japan.

Props Alasdair Dickinson and Moray Low, and locks Jim Hamilton and Richie Gray come into the home pack, while Duncan Taylor replaces the injured Matt Scott at inside centre, a first start for the Saracens utility back. Gray's uncapped 19-year-old brother and fellow lock Jonny is on the bench.

"Generating competition for spots is what we're about in this series," Johnson said.

"You need to do it sometime and we are going to do it now. We are 22 months out from the World Cup and there has to be growth in this team," the Australian added.

Scotland's preparations were overshadowed late this week by reports four players, including Sean Maitland and Ryan Grant who are in Sunday's matchday 23, were due to appear in court on assault charges relating to an alleged incident that took place outside a Glasgow takeaway restaurant last month.

"We cannot offer any comment on the alleged incident at this time," said a spokesman for the Scottish Rugby Union.

"However, we do reiterate that it is imperative that the values of our game are upheld by all those involved with the sport."

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