After finding top form in the Pro14 this season, former Springbok flanker Arno Botha has set his sights on a possible recall to the national team ahead of the July tests.
Botha, who scored a hat-trick of tries in Munster’s comprehensive 68-3 victory against the Southern Kings in Cork last Friday, is currently in superb form for the Irish club and this has seen him play a major role in their impressive form this season.
The former Blue Bulls loose-forward, who played two Tests for the Springboks before injury curtailed his national aspirations, has impressed those watching him in the Pro14 to such an extent that his performances may well have caught the eye of the Springbok management.
Although there is an overflow of talent in South Africa at loose forward, Botha admits he still dreams of pulling the Springbok jersey over his head once again.
“It will always be something; it isn’t something that will die easily,” said Botha. “I always say if I stop hoping to play for South Africa then I might stop playing rugby. Then there is no motivation to do it.
“I love rugby and I love playing at the top level. To play for your country is the best way to prove that.
“If it is tougher to do it from Munster, then it is fine and it is a challenge. I knew that going there.”
Botha lauded the Springboks for their performances which not only saw them win the Rugby World Cup last year but also earned them a string of accolades – the most recent of which was winning the Laureus Team of the Year Award in Berlin on Monday.
“The guys in the team are doing a good job and they deserve it,” said Botha. “You can’t take anything away from that team at the moment, they perform at a high level.”
The hard-working loose-forward explained that while most South African players in Europe will have their eye on the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour, he is hoping to attract the selectors’ attention for the July Tests against Georgia and Scotland.
“That is definitely one of my goals,” Botha said. “Not just 2021, but the 2020 June Tests, the November Tests and the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
“But the first step is to perform week-in and week-out for Munster. I can’t do more than that.
“They can’t pick me if I don’t do what I have to do, so it is up to me to do it.
“My motivation is there and I am excited to challenge myself against the guys I am playing against.
“I have to challenge myself to be better than them. It excites me every week to see if I can do it.”
After overcoming several challenging years of injuries, Botha is delighted to be injury-free and is enjoying every minute he gets on the field.
“I think back about it a lot,” he said. “If you think about the knee injuries in 2013 and 2014, and then the hamstring, back and shoulder injuries in 2015, I couldn’t get a break. Then in 2017, I had a shoulder injury, so it didn’t work out well.
“But I’ve now played more than 30 games without niggles, and I’m very blessed and fortunate.
“The guys at Munster look after me well and I’m enjoying my time there.”
Of his superb form this season, Botha said: “It’s difficult to say I’m in the same form as five or six years ago because it was a long time ago, but I’m not far off.
“I don’t think I’ve been this fit and strong and felt this good about myself in a long time. You get confidence from playing.”
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