Ex-Springbok flanker Arno Botha is dreaming of a recall to the national team in July after his form skyrocketed in this season’s Guinness PRO14. Botha scored a hat-trick of tries against Southern Kings last Friday night when Munster side ran riot in a season when he is consistently impressed for the Irish province. 

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The ex-Bulls loose forward, who was capped twice for the Springboks before injury curtailed his national chances, has delighted those watching him in the PRO14 to such an extent that the performances may well catch the eye of the South African management.

While loose forwards are never a position where there isn’t an overflow of talent in South Africa, Botha admits he still dreams about pulling the Test jersey over his head once more. “It will always be something (I want). It isn’t something that will die easily. I still have the desire to be the best, even though it might seem like a long road.

“I will work every day as if it is the day I can perform to my optimal form. I always say if I stop hoping to play for South Africa then I might stop playing rugby. Then there is no motivation to do it,” he explained. “I love rugby and love playing at the top level. To play for your country is the best way to prove that. I definitely have hope for that.

“If it is more difficult to do it from Munster, then it is fine and it is a challenge. I knew that going there. The guys in the team are doing a good job and they deserve it. You can’t take anything away from that team at the moment – they perform to a high level.”

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Botha added that while most SA players in Europe would be looking towards the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour, he is hoping to catch the selectors’ eye for the upcoming July Test games against Georgia and Scotland.

“That is definitely one of my goals. Not just 2021 but 2020 June Tests, November Tests, Tri-Nations. But the first step is to perform week in and out for Munster and I can’t do more than that. They can’t pick me if I don’t do what I have to do. It is up to me to do it.

“My motivation is there and I’m excited to challenge myself against guys I’m playing against. I have to challenge myself to be better than them. That excites me every week to see if I can do it.”

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After several years where injuries curtailed his game, Botha’s time at Munster has been the answer to his prayers. His injuries are gone and now he is enjoying every minute he gets on the playing field. “I think back about it a lot. If you think about the injuries in 2013 and 2014 on my knees, and then couldn’t get a break in 2015 – where I got a hammy, a back injury and my shoulder. Then in 2017, I had a shoulder, so it didn’t work out well.

“But now I’ve played more than 30 games without niggles. I’m very blessed and fortunate. The guys at Munster look well after me and I’m enjoying my time there. The team makes it easy for me. I’m fortunate to be in a team that is top five in Europe at the moment.

“I enjoy my work because I’m at one of the top clubs and anything else is just an add-on. If it is already great, then there aren’t a lot of things that can go wrong. There aren’t going to be too many people who are bad if the team is top five in Europe.

“It is difficult to get to a mindset where I say I’m in the same form because it was five or six years ago (when I last played Test rugby). It is a long time but I’m not far off it. I don’t think I’ve been this fit and strong and feeling good about myself in a long time. You get confidence from playing.

“Maybe I’m there, but I don’t know it. Rugby has changed so much since then that maybe I am there. My challenge to myself is to get better every day. It doesn’t matter what I am doing, whether it is defence, attack or tackling, I just want to get better at it and try to be the best at it. What better place to be doing it than at Munster.”

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