Tony McKeever

Bakkies’ early exit from NZ

As you read this, Bakkies Botha is probably back in Pretoria leaving behind him New Zealand and the next three games of the Rugby World Cup, which ends October 23.

Cause: “Achilles tendon injury”.

Bakkies is a South African patriot and consummate rugby professional, but you have to wonder, or just be a little bit prickled into thinking, are we seeing patriotism colliding with professionalism here?

Put yourself in his position.

You essentially are in the twilight of your rugby-playing career in which you have approximately three years left in which to lucratively harvest your single greatest asset, your rugby skills, reputation and performance for the highest price you can get.

Two years ago Bakkies lost out to the Blue Bulls in a labour dispute in which he wanted to be released from his professional playing contract to pursue the big money overseas.

So you sign a three-year contract with Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal in February 2011 for R7.4 million a year for three years. This deal, however, has some tough clauses because Boudjellal is no beginner to signing world-class players for top dollar but getting full value for his money. It so happens that Joe van Niekerk is captain of Toulon and even Jonny Wilkinson has signed with them.

For starters Bakkies knew in February, eight months ago, that he has to be on site November 1 and you can rest assured an absolute boiler-plate condition of the contract is that Bakkies has to pitch up for work “fully fit” and “ready to do duty — as in play from the get go”, if he wants to earn his R7.4 million a year — Toulon’s competitive season begins that very weekend.

So just how much influence did Bakkies’ contract have on his early exit and departure from NZ?

It had to be a huge factor and I think it escalated into a huge loss for South Africa’s Springboks on Sunday, as we needed Bakkies’ “baksteen” and iron man presence.

His absence was a missing mongrel component, which South Africa lacked. The team played well but not as a team to own the Webb Ellis Trophy for a second time. The Springboks needed more of an assassin and an enforcer to neutralise that bloody good Wallaby fetcher and man of the match — David Pocock. He is damn good.

He single-handedly robbed South Africa of the semi-finals and Bakkies would have shut that thief in the night. Listen, Pocock’s performance was Bryce Lawrence-enhanced, the TV replays are not forgiving. In fact they are pretty well damning of the refereeing competency of Lawrence and that of the RWC refereeing panel.

Some time ago I opined that Lawrence needed to be sponsored by Spec-Savers as the poor man’s eyesight and that of his assistant referees was nothing short of shocking on Sunday.

And this at rugby’s showpiece, what is supposed to be the best of the best of rugby — an event worth hundreds of millions of rands. And an inferior performance like that of Lawrence’s quite simply sabotages everything good about the World Cup. So no wonder you get the quasi cop-out that we witnessed with Bakkies.

So Bakkies, head to Toulon and make that big-time cash as we will always be your fans and love the fact that the French need you and Van Niekerk so much they will whip out the big green for you.

Roll on the Heineken Cup for our end-of-year rugby inventory!

  • Greg Hurvitz

    Tony, you make excellent points, there is no doubt that the professional element of the game will at some point cause a clash of this nature. I certainly cannot blame Bakkies for making any decision remotely linked to the points you make, R22million is R22million. It also presents another challenge though, that is the major rugby unions will need to ensure they can pay big cash for the top players to prevent such clashes or do you think that such clashes will occur when a player is in their twilight zone? The IRB and SANZAR are headed for talks (stand off more like it) and now the discussions is for a 20 team RWC this to ensure that the revenue is higher from TV and we will just wait and see where these rounds take us in the next era of professional rugby.

  • Tony McKeever

    Greg…………it seems the lure of lucre is way too powerful and there are some 350 South African players plying their professionalism outside of South Africa – Bakkies has merely gone to join them.
    Imagine a team of South African overseas based players against a SA based team, playing in 5 venues around the country?

    IRB & SANZAR will merely chat about bringing in the Argentines and how to prepare JAPAN for 2019, which could mean Japan and Argentine fielding a team each in the new Super 18 starting in 2016-2021, which would naturally include the 6th SA franchise.
    These are the annual tournaments that will add value to the 2015 and 2019 World Cups.

  • Nathan Blows

    I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Achilles tendon injuries.

    They can vary in severity. Sometimes it’s just a strain, which is easy enough to recover from, or a partial or complete rupture, which is quite severe and typically requires some sort of surgery. If left untreated, even a tendon strain can become worse and develop into a tear or rupture.

    The average age group affected by this type of injury is the 30-40 grouping, with males affected more than females. It affects quite a few athletes – injuries to the Achilles tendon are one of the most common injuries, particularly in sports that require explosive movements, like pushing off from the foot.

    Treatment and rehabilitation can take anywhere from a month up to 6 months, sometimes even longer. If a tendon is ruptured or torn, there’s also no proper walking, running or jumping for a while.

    As an example: I tore my Achilles tendon about three years ago, while training. I was in a cast for a few weeks, in a moonboot for two months – all the while walking with crutches – followed by three months of rehabilitation, where I learned to balance and walk properly again (never mind any type of running). I was only able to run without (almost) any trouble after working with a personal trainer for 3 months, after my rehabilitation phase with a physio. Sometimes I still get a fleeting stab of pain in the area after doing heavy leg work.

    That’s 9 months in total.

    I think he made the right decision. He probably would have seriously injured himself in the WC, making him useless to the Bok camp anyway, AND jeopardised his post-WC playing future.

    He is 32 now, and probably won’t be in the next WC squad. He isn’t guaranteed a starting position in the Bok squad for much longer, either.

    As much as it galls us, he probably did take his future career into consideration. Rugby isn’t something you can keep playing at the top level when you’re 50, all the while accruing a pension fund (or similar) to provide for you in your old age.

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