x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Boks' Botha is stuck in his ways

The South Africa lock has no plans to change his methods any time soon as the world champions prepare to do battle with New Zealand in Durban.

South Africa lock Bakkies Botha has no plans to change his methods any time soon as the world champions prepare to do battle with New Zealand in Durban today. Botha, 29, thrives on being the hard man in the Springbok pack and insists his recent two-week ban will not see him tone down his aggressive approach.

He told South African website keo.co.za: "I love to carry that 'enforcer' label. I've been that way for nine years, and am not going to stop now. I'm not going to start putting in grubbers, or kicks or try to get fancy, that's not me." Botha said he had put his ban, which resulted in his teammates making an unprecedented protest by donning armbands in support of him in the third Test against the British and Irish Lions, behind him. "There are many different opinions about it and the whole situation is out of my hands," he said. "I'm not going to change my game and I will do my job."

Botha was banned on June 28 for two weeks after being cited for a dangerous charge on Wales prop Adam Jones during the second Test against the Lions. South Africa captain John Smit has put his personal milestone aside and vowed to concentrate only on beating New Zealand. The 31-year-old forward will become the most-capped captain in world rugby when he leads the Springboks out for the 60th time at the Absa Stadium in Durban.

"It's quite a nice moment, and I know it's been the talking point this week, but I don't want it to be," said Smit. "It's a nice thing individually but it creates side-shows and distractions to what we are going to achieve on Saturday as a team. "I've tried to think about it as little as possible. I probably wouldn't know how many caps I have overall, if I had to be honest. I'm not very clued up about those things."

Smit will win his 86th cap today and lead his country for the 60th time, surpassing former England captain Will Carling and Australian George Gregan - who share the record of 59 Tests as captain. New Zealand must combat South Africa's prowess at the line-out if the All Blacks are to avenge last weekend's 28-19 triumph in Bloemfontein defeat today, said captain Richie McCaw. McCaw acknowledged poor performance at the line-out contri- buted to the defeat. "It's the old story," he said. "If you lose a couple, everyone gets a bit twitchy, and that's what happened last week."

South African line-out kingpin Victor Matfield said the New Zealand players would have to think through their options carefully in the face of a confident Springbok pack. "They will have two thoughts: they can try put us under pressure by throwing jumpers up, but then they open themselves up for the drive. If they don't contest, then we've got clean ball." McCaw said "confidence falls to pieces" if the opening line-outs are lost, adding: "When Matfield's confidence is up he's hard to stop. That's why it's key to start well and adapt to whatever contesting strategies he brings.

"We need to be good enough to just keep backing what we're doing even when one doesn't go the way we wanted it to. "Last week we allowed it to get to us and that was frustrating, but there's no need to panic." Australia winger Drew Mitchell is confident the absence of coach Robbie Deans for the opening stages of the team's 10-day tour of South Africa won't be a distraction. While the Wallabies squad boarded a plane for Cape Town yesterday, Deans was already en route to Christchurch to visit his seriously ill father. He is expected to arrive at the team's Cape Town base on Sunday to begin preparations for the August 1 showdown against the world champion Springboks.

"No not at all," Mitchell said when asked if the coach's absence would hinder the side's build up. * With agencies South Africa v New Zealand, KO 7pm, Showsports 3