Arno Botha, the two-try hero of the Bulls’ Currie Cup final triumph, has been in various losing playoffs in his 10-year professional career and last weekend at Loftus Versfeld he simply decided enough is enough and he refused to be on the losing side again.
Botha started playing for the Bulls in 2011, coincidentally just as the franchise’s fortunes started to wane after the glorious previous decade. The loose-forward was on the losing side in the 2016 Currie Cup final when the Free State Cheetahs hammered them 36-16 in Bloemfontein.
Even a move to Europe in 2018 could not secure the Springbok, whose international career was wrecked by knee injuries, any silverware.
“I can remember the 2007 Super Rugby final exactly – Frans Steyn missing the conversion, Gary Botha kicking the ball out of the ruck and Bryan Habana scoring – and for me it was always about winning trophies for the Bulls,” Botha told The Citizen.
“But we missed out in 2016 and then playing in Europe, I lost two semi-finals in one year with Munster. So I must have lost half-a-dozen playoffs from 2011 and in this final I just decided that it cannot happen again.
“Obviously you don’t have control of how things are going to turn out as one player, but I just told myself I must try whatever I can to make a difference, to leave everything out there, like Rassie Erasmus said you have to in a final, in that clip from Chasing the Sun.
“So it was definitely one of the most special moments of my life and the most joyful moment of my career.”
Botha came on to the field midway through the second half with the Bulls looking a bit ragged in terms of discipline and trailing 19-9. He said his mindset as one of the team’s vice-captains was to just ensure they stuck to basics and played in the right areas of the field.
“I just wanted to give energy to the team, which you need when you’re 10 points down,” he said. “But it’s not about pulling a rabbit from the hat, it’s about the basics, you still have to kick when you need to, you can’t play in your own half.
“I just tried to strengthen the players so that they would not think about the score, just play the game for the last 20 minutes. It’s all about composure.
“You’re not thinking about losing when you go into the game, but sometimes you get into that position where you might well lose and it’s about how you manage your game to get out of that.
“And my tries were definitely not just about one person: you had Duane Vermeulen taking a quick-tap for the first one and then Embrose Papier made a line-break for the other one and did flippen well to stay in play,” the 29-year-old Nylstroom-born Botha said.