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Botha plays down bad boy image
ESPNscrum Staff
January 3, 2012
Bakkies Botha poses at Toulon's Stade Felix Mayol, Toulon press conference, Stade Felix Mayol, Toulon, France, July 7, 2011
Bakkies Botha © Getty Images
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Teams: France | Toulon

Toulon lock Bakkies Botha has attempted to play down his image as the hardest man in rugby by insisting that he is "not a thug".

The former Springboks second row, who made his belated Top 14 debut during his side's 25-6 defeat to strugglers Biarritz last weekend, has revealed he loves the physical nature of the game but denied he is the dirty player he is often made out to be.

"I am not a thug. I love the battle, that's all," the 32-year-old told Midi Olympique despite having been handed several notable suspensions during his career including a nine-week ban for a headbutt on All Blacks scrum-half Jimmy Cowan in 2010 and an eight-week sanction for an alleged eye-gouge on Australia's Brendan Cannon in 2003.

However, Botha, who was also yellow carded on his Springboks debut, believes he suffers from the reputation that others have carved out for him. "I was given a three-week suspension a few years ago for pushing [Australia flanker] Phil Waugh at a ruck," he added, recalling an incident in 2009 that saw him found guilty of striking the Wallabies forward and subsequently suspended for three weeks.

"When it came to the disciplinary hearing, the judge asked me how many times I had been cited in my life. I told the truth - once. He did not believe me, asked me if I had personal problems, if I hit my kids...It was ridiculous. People are wrong about me. I do not eat children."

Botha finally made the switch to the south of France from the Pretoria-based Bulls after the 2011 Rugby World Cup, four years after Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal has first inquired about his services. "Four years ago, I was on the verge of signing with Toulon," explained Botha. "We could not break my contract with the Bulls and it ended in court where I lost.

"So I was delighted when Mourad Boudjellal came after me again two years later. That tells me that he is a man of his word. Last year, I had other contract offers in Europe but I chose Toulon out of respect for him."

Botha eventually put pen to paper on a three-year deal and is determined to make an impact in that time. Looking ahead to the latest stage of his career, Botha said: "I want Toulon to qualify for the Heineken Cup next year and I want to be associated with success."

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