Harlequins flanker Renaldo Bothma (6’2, 110kg) has set himself the daunting challenge of replacing Jacques Burger as the face of Namibian rugby in Europe and guiding his country to qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Given that Burger’s face bore the scars of a ridiculously committed career with Saracens and Namibia by the time he retired, Bothma, 28, is a brave man to take on that kind of responsibility and he admitted: “I will definitely try to keep my looks better than Jacques! For me, I just want and become a World class player and get my form back in the coming weeks. It is not about becoming famous in England, it is about delivering my best for Harlequins and to do the boys proud.
“We have the final qualification for the World Cup next June and that is something we are really looking forward to and we are confident of making it to Japan although you cannot be certain of anything about rugby. For a small country like Namibia, it is a massive thing to be at the World Cup and it is unique for those guys who are not full-time professionals.”
Bothma, like 38-cap Burger who quit the game last year, has already shown an ability to overcome serious injury with more than 24 weeks spent recovering from twice breaking his arm and now a metal plate and screws will remain for the rest of his rugby career to ensure the bone stays together. The arm injury is why Quins fans have had to wait until December to see the strongly built flanker pull on the famous multi-coloured jersey and he will be on duty in Belfast tomorrow night as the London club faces the return clash with Ulster in a European Champions Cup campaign that has only delivered three defeats against La Rochelle, Wasps and the Irish province.
The Kingspan Stadium in Belfast delivers a raucous atmosphere that will test Quins ability to handle intense pressure and Bothma is relishing both the mental and physical challenge that facing Ulster involves. He added: “I broke my arm in the last Super rugby game I played in South Africa and there was still six or seven games rehab when I arrived at Quins and then I played in an A league match for the club. With the first ball carry I made I completely broke the same arm again and then I had to have an operation and so in total is was around 24 weeks out.
“I now have a plate – not having had one the first time for the fracture which healed by itself – and the surgery was needed because it was a complete break and that will stay in my arm. You can take it out at a later stage but not now and I don’t know if it going to set off the metal detectors!
“Last weekend’s cold weather was horrible for me and I have never experienced anything like that before on a rugby pitch. I am sure it will get better although I have heard it does get wet in Belfast.
“Although I have played only two games, I have enjoyed the whole experience and playing at home in front of a full stadium is something that has been lacking in South African rugby for the last year or two. The injuries at Quins this season have meant that the summer signing like myself, Demetri Catrikilis and Francis Salili have been out. Hopefully we have a lot of guys coming back for the start of the New Year.”
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