Naas Botha

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Naas Botha
Rugby Naas Botha.jpg
Full name Hendrik Egnatius Botha
Date of birth (1958-02-27) 27 February 1958 (age 56)
Place of birth Breyten, South Africa
School Hoërskool Hendrik Verwoerd
University University of Pretoria
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Fly-half
Professional / senior clubs
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1987–92 Rugby Rovigo 119 (1731)
correct as of 11 August 2014.
Provincial/State sides
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1977–95 Northern Transvaal 179 (2511)
correct as of 11 August 2014.
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1980–92
1986, 1992
South Africa
World XV
28 (312)
correct as of 11 August 2014.

Hendrik Egnatius Botha, commonly known as Naas Botha (born 27 February 1958) is a Northern Transvaal and Springboks former Rugby union player. He was voted Rugby Player of the Year.[1] Botha mostly played in the fly-half position and is now a rugby commentator for the South African M-Net and Supersport TV channels.[2]

Family and early career[edit]

Botha was born in the town of Breyten in the Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga), South Africa and went to school at the Hoërskool Hendrik Verwoerd in Pretoria. As a child, Botha aspired to playing professional baseball and applied for a sport scholarship in the United States. Botha was also an excellent schools cricket and tennis player and also a hurdles athlete.

However, Botha was selected to play for the South African under-20 rugby team, where he caught the eye of the selectors while still a student at the University of Pretoria.[3] As a result, Botha played his first Test for the Springboks on 26 April 1980 at the age of 22 in the flyhalf position against South America at Wanderers, Johannesburg.

Rugby Union[edit]

Botha was best known for extremely accurate (both left- and right-footed) kicking, which earned him the nickname "Nasty Booter" from the British press when the British Lions toured South Africa in 1980. He is best remembered for his abilities as a very successful drop-kicker in high pressure situations and is also considered to have had an outstanding tactical understanding of rugby.

While Botha was sometimes criticised for avoiding physical contact and not running with the ball, his handling of the ball was very deft and he could get his backline moving very quickly with accurate short and long range passing. As a result, he scored many tries and contributed to many more. However, some consider that he was somewhat weak in defence. Nevertheless, Danie Craven once said, "Give me Naas, and I'll conquer the world!"

Botha remained the highest points scorer in Springbok rugby history for a number of years, with a points total of 312, until 17 July 2004, when his tally was passed by Percy Montgomery. However, Montgomery passed him in his 50th match, while Botha had only played in 28.

In addition to his Springbok rugby-playing duties, Botha also played for the Northern Transvaal province (nicknamed the "Blue Bulls", which they have since adopted as their official name) from 1977 to 1995. During this period his contributions ensured that they dominated domestic South African rugby and won the Currie Cup nine times (sharing it twice with Western Province in 1979 and 1989). He was also captain of the province a record 128 times and scored a record 2,511 points (including 1,699 points in the Currie Cup).

The 1981 tour and sporting bans[edit]

In 1981 Botha travelled with the Springboks to South America; they subsequently beat Ireland and France in their warm-up to their tour of New Zealand. Public opinion was deeply divided over the New Zealand tour, but Botha and his fellow Springboks focused on playing rugby, which was made difficult by actions such as pitch invasions and aircraft fly-bys from protesters opposed to South Africa's apartheid policies. South Africa lost the series 2–1, but the implications of the tour went far beyond rugby.

As an indirect result of this tour, South Africa was banned by the International Rugby Board from international competition until 1992, which meant apart from hosting the rebel New Zealand Cavaliers tour in 1986, Botha played few international games. Domestically he made up for it, however: in 15 seasons playing for Northern Transvaal he played in 11 Currie Cup finals, winning nine (two shared) and scoring a record 2,511 points.

International career[edit]

In the pre-professional era that Botha played in, being paid to play rugby was always a controversial subject. Despite being handsomely paid "under the table", Botha was of the opinion that he could earn more in professional sport and thus he travelled to the United States in 1983 on the invitation of the American football team the Dallas Cowboys to try out as a placekicker. This move was not successful, however, and he returned to South Africa to continue his rugby career. While in the United States, Naas played rugby with the Dallas Harlequins, where he led them to the 1984 USA National Club Championships.

In 1987, once again primarily for monetary considerations, Botha moved to the Italian club Rugby Rovigo, where he played 119 games and helped them win two National Championships (in 1988 and 1990).

Return to the Springboks[edit]

Botha's career lasted long enough for him to see South Africa let back into the international rugby fold and to play in one-off Tests against World Cup holders Australia and New Zealand. Both games ended in defeat and Botha then toured France with the Springboks before bowing out in a 33–16 defeat on 14 November 1992 at the age of 34 as flyhalf against England at Twickenham, London. He had set countless Springbok records during his rugby career and is still considered to be one of the Springbok "greats".

Personal life[edit]

Botha is married to Karen, a former Springbok athlete and longjump record-holder; the couple have three daughters. Kyla Botha , Gaeby Botha and Lee-gre Botha

Career stats[edit]

  • Test Cap Record: Played 28, Won 19, Lost 9
    • Test Points: 312
    • Tries: 2
    • Penalties: 50
    • Conversions: 50
    • Drop Goals: 18

References[edit]

  1. ^ Allan, Jani (1980s). Face Value. Longstreet. pp. 80–2. ISBN 0-620-07013-7. 
  2. ^ "Who's Who of Southern Africa". 24.com. Retrieved 6 June 2009. 
  3. ^ http://www.whoswhosa.co.za/hendrik-botha-4580 Naas Botha Retrieved 25 June 2011