With an injury-interrupted first season in the Cape now behind him, young lock Ruan Botha is ready to step up and continue making his mark at the DHL Stormers.
Tell us about your background, Ruan.
“I was born in Kempton Park and attended Hoërskool Stoffberg, where I initially played flyhalf and centre. Eventually I became too tall and slow, so was moved to lock. I got a bursary at Hoërskool Jeugland for my last two years of high school. I started playing for the first team in Grade 11 and in my matric year I played in the Craven Week for the Valke. I then made the SA Schools side before being contracted by the Golden Lions.”
Why did you decide to join DHL Western Province and the DHL Stormers?
“It was a big decision based on wanting to be part of a winning culture. It wasn’t going well at the Lions and the DHL Stormers had so much to offer. Andries Bekker was also still here when I signed; he was a drawcard too.”
Why did we see so little of you in your first season with WP last year?
“Unfortunately, I injured my ankle two months after arriving. It was a struggle to get it to heal and eventually I missed eight months of the season. It was the worst time of my life, but there was the highlight of playing in the U21 Final that WP won.”
You also played for the SA U20 side that beat New Zealand in the final of the IRB Junior World Championships at DHL Newlands in 2012. Did you fall in love with DHL Newlands then?
“To date, it’s the best stadium I’ve played in. I recall vividly how there was green and gold everywhere. We faced the Haka from 15 metres, but couldn’t hear anything because the crowd was so loud. It showed how faithful the Newlands fans are.”
At 2.05m, you’re almost as tall as Bekker! Do you see yourself stepping into his boots?
“I’m still young and have so much to learn from De Kock Steenkamp and Manuel Carizza. I’m learning the trade at No.4 and will move into the role of No.5 lock when I’m a little more experienced. Once I’m there, I can take on responsibilities such as calling the line-outs.”
Apart from your line-out prowess, what can we expect from you in terms of playing style?
“I see myself playing a similar brand to that of Bekker. I really looked up to him. He took control of the line-outs and was a very good distributor of the ball to his outside. It’s also one of my strengths, which I’d like to continue building on.”
Who do you rate as the best No.5 lock in the business?
“I really believe Franco van der Merwe should have had a lot more Springbok exposure by now. He takes complete charge of the line-outs. I think he’s unlucky in that he’s earned only one Springbok cap to date.”
Any idea why the lock position is so cursed with injuries at the DHL Stormers?
“I think every team has a cross to bear. It’s a position in which you obviously have to jump and you can land awkwardly, so you’re vulnerable to injuries.”
What has the mood in the camp been like during the difficult times the team has had to endure?
“We’re a close group. It’s just a matter of having to pull together and learn from our mistakes. Who knows, we can still end the competition strongly.”
How important is it to get things right in front of your supporters?
“It’s terrific to be back home. I believe the DHL Newlands Faithful will lift our spirits and energy levels.”
What is the leadership in the squad like?
“There couldn’t be any better leadership than what we’re getting from Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger. You learn so much from their experience.”
What has been the highlight of your career to date?
“It was great to win the Junior World Championships and the provincial U21 title, but the highlight, for me, was when I pulled on a DHL Stormers jersey for the first time and ran out against the Chiefs.”
Who is the funniest guy in the team?
“It’s more a case of funniest guys: Jaco Taute and Damian de Allende. They’re always joking around. It brings tremendous energy on and off the field.”
Do you have any hobbies?
“I enjoy fishing, but still have to learn how to be a sea fisherman now that I live by the coast!”
DHL Stormers Matchday Magazine