Any team-mate willing to put their body on the line for the collective is an asset in rugby.
But Bakkies Botha perhaps took the challenge a little too seriously when South Africa came up against fierce rivals New Zealand during the 2010 Tri Nations series. The Springboks icon is revered as one of the hardest men to have ever laced up his boots, but the legendary lock allowed his emotions to get the better of him in that infamous incident.
Fans are reminded of the headbutt felt around the world as South Africa and New Zealand prepare to compete for the 2023 Rugby World Cup on Saturday. The reigning Springboks and resurgent All Blacks each hold three championships apiece, and the rugby world is anticipating a tense tie of the highest order in Paris.
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But the game could perhaps do without any homages to Botha, who was lucky not to be sent straight off after flying off the handle at New Zealand scrum-half Jimmy Cowan all those years ago. The 6'7" behemoth was chasing an early kick through with Cowan and appeared to be getting the better of his opponent before the New Zealand No9 tugged Botha's jersey to even the race.
The two went down in a heap, and the Eden Park crowd rained boos on Botha after replays showed the Bok use his sliding momentum to smash his head into the back of Cowan's skull. And the hosts were even more displeased that officials completely missed the incident at the time – though he was banned for nine weeks the following day and missed the rest of the tournament.
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Ill discipline was a trait of Botha's, and only 10 minutes passed before he was in fact sin-binned for a separate incident kicking the ball off his try line illegally. His moment of madness went down in infamy, not that one would have guessed judging by the 85-cap veteran's reaction in more recent years.
“No, not a single second," he told French newspaper Midi Olympique in 2020 when asked if he had any regrets over the incident. "And if I were to relive this situation, I would do the exact same thing!
England's rugby team will be aiming for glory in France, with Umbro supplying their kits for the tournament. It is the first time that the supplier have been handed the chance to produce the kits, with a traditional white home shirt emblazoned with the iconic red rose.
“That day in Auckland I was battling with Cowan following a kick. I was faster than him. I had passed him and he pulled me by the shirt to slow me down. When I caught up with him 10 metres away, I made him understand that I hadn’t liked it. . .I hate injustice.
“It’s not something I’m proud of. I kind of dropped the Springboks that day. And Jimmy Cowan won the mini-battle. But I would react in exactly the same way today… it’s still the fault of the No9. They talk too much and know better than anyone how to get you out of the game.”
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