Botha brothers take namesake on the road

(Rugby News Service) Monday 19 September 2011
Botha brothers take namesake on the road
The Bakkies cardboard cutout has been touring New Zealand extensively

TAUPO, 19 Sept. - South African brothers Marius and Neels Botha have been having a blast touring New Zealand with their idol and namesake Bakkies Botha.

But Springboks fans need not fear the star back row has defected from camp - the Botha brothers are carrying a cardboard cut-out of their hero as they trek across the nation and take in their team's Rugby World Cup 2011 pool matches.

"We decided to bring the great man with us as a mascot," Marius said at a fans' day at Owen Delany Park in Taupo on Monday.

"He's one of the best rugby players from our region and our town, Pretoria, and we decided to have some fun showing him off while we're on tour.

"He was hand luggage carried on three airlines from South Africa to Bangkok to Auckland and then into a campervan."

The cardboard version of Bakkies looked a bit the worse for wear but remarkably intact considering the adventures he has had over the past two weeks.

"We showed him the South Island, took him skiing, jet boating. We're looking after him and he's looking after us," Marius said after South Africa's training session in the lead-up to their match with Namibia in Auckland on Thursday.

'Fragile' sticker on ankle

"He's been to all of the (South Africa) games. Fortunately they allowed us to take him in and of course there's been a lot of discussion and pictures with fans and opposition."

The real Bakkies Botha recently said he felt like "an old farm vehicle in the morning - it smokes a bit but when you drive it, after an hour, then it's hot and it can go" - after recovering from an achilles tendon injury to play the first half of South Africa's 49-3 win over Fiji in Wellington last Saturday.

"That's why he's got a `fragile' sticker on his ankle," Neels pointed out on the cardboard version, also noting that "he's been drinking a bit this week".

Added Neels: "We're travelling in a campervan so it's been quite tight fitting him in. He's sleeping quite close to us at night."

The talk turned more serious when it came to the likelihood of the Springboks facing Tri Nations champions Australia in the quarter-finals after the Wallabies lost 15-6 to Ireland on Saturday.

"We would have preferred to play Ireland but if we're going to win the World Cup then we'll have to beat all of them," said Marius. "The sooner we start the better."

RNS dp/gs/mr