Bakkies Botha was the Enforcer of all things on a rugby field. The legendary Springboks, Bulls and Toulon hard man, who started his career with the Falcons, was brutal and the master of his art. But he was never the dirtiest player in the game and every statistic supports this view, writes Mark Keohane.
Botha had a reputation as being the ‘go to’ guy when it came to righting wrongs and establishing order in the 85 Tests he played for the Springboks but he was yellow-carded just four times, with the first coming in his debut Test against France in Marseilles in 2002. He was also yellow carded for a clean out on Welsh prop Adam Jones in the 2009 Springboks series against the British & Irish Lions. Jones, who left the field with a dislocated shoulder, was vocal afterwards in saying Botha did not deserve a yellow card and that there was nothing dirty or illegal about the clean out.
Springbok assistant coach Dick Muir defended Botha’s clean out and said it was an ‘example of how correctly to clear out at the ruck’.
Gold described the yellow card, citing and two-week ban of Botha for the clean out as ‘preposterous’.
Botha also never received a red card in a Test career that started in 2002 and ended in 2015, which makes a nonsense of the perception and the thread on Uk-based website ruck.co.uk that Botha can be ranked as No 1 is the dirtiest players in the professional era.
WATCH: Bakkies Botha on the charge.
There is a perception that lock Botha would lead the list of yellow and red card returns when it comes to Springbok and world rugby’s card transgressors and, to quote Botha, many think of him as an ill-disciplined walking credit card.
However, the perception does not translate into fact because Botha doesn’t even rank in the top 30 of international players to be yellow carded.
Georgia loose-forward Viktor Kolelishvili is the most carded player in international rugby history, having been shown eight yellow cards and one red card in his 50 Tests. Wallabies captain Michael Hooper, in his 99 Tests, has received eight yellow cards.
Georgia has five players in the top 25 carded players and two in the top 10. Uruguay has three players in the top 25 penalised with cards, with South Africa, Australia, Italy, Russia and Germany all grouped on two yellow cards.
Surprisingly, record-breaking Springbok winger Bryan Habana was given his marching orders seven times, which makes him the second most yellow carded player in a group of four.
Botha doesn’t even make the top three transgressors in Springboks rugby, with Habana (seven yellow cards), Schalk Burger (six) and Victor Matfield (five) ahead of him.
Botha and fellow Bulls and Bok lock Flip van der Merwe were carded four times each in their international careers.
Botha played it hard but rarely to the detriment of his international teammates or the Springboks.