‘Real enforcer’ Bakkies Botha humbled by Bernard Laporte ‘greatest’ remark
CAPE TOWN - Bakkies Botha may have been a ‘meanie’ on the rugby pitch, but he has shown his emotional side too in paying tribute to his former Toulon coach Bernard Laporte.
In a recent interview with beINSports TV channel in France, Laporte – who is the current World Rugby vice-chairman and president of the French Rugby Federation – praised the Springbok hard man during his time at Toulon from 2011 to 2015.
It was a trophy-filled time for the club, with three consecutive European Cup titles in 2013, 2014 and 2015, as well as the 2014 French Top 14.
When looking back on his favourite players, Laporte – who is also a former French national team coach, said: “Bakkies Botha is the greatest player I have coached in my career. Of course difficult to compare because Jonny Wilkinson was excellent, Matt Giteau was monstrous, but Bakkies was so strong physically.
“And I would have liked so much to be like him on the field to scare everyone and smash everyone. As a player, I’d say Bakkies Botha was my idol.
“He arrived in Toulon at the same time as me. At the time of his departure from the club, he called to tell me he wanted to see me. He shook my hand when we met and told me he didn’t know if we were going to meet again, but he wanted to tell me that I had been the best coach he had ever had.
“I was crying! I wondered how a guy like him, with 90 caps for the Springboks and someone who has seen it all and who was a world champion can tell me that. I still have tears in my eyes when I think of that moment.”
On Wednesday, former No 4 lock Botha – who won Super Rugby and Currie Cup titles with the Bulls, and played 85 Tests for the Boks from 2002 to 2014 – responded with a quintessential ‘Bakkies message’ to Laporte.
“I have always thought of myself of a kind, but to read a special man like @BernardLaporte_ say I was the best player he ever coached made me feel humbled but also proud. I went to @rugbytoulon_ to create rugby history and we did. Regards and Blessings THE REAL ENFORCER”
Botha, now 41, retired from all rugby in 2015 after bowing out of the Test scene in November 2014, and has established a butcher business and is also involved in farming.