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!