He has shoulders built for the big shove, but BJ Botha believes Munster won’t push their way back to the pinnacle of European rugby until the province stops looking over theirs.
The South African admits it was tales of big characters and the lure of old achievement that coaxed him south from Ulster. But while he relished hitching a ride on the shoulders of giants; he doesn’t want to live in their long shadows.
“It [all the great characters] was possibly a big motivation in me joining the club; the expectancy is huge from supporters and makes Munster special.
“The support base we have, the numbers they bring and how they read the game, how they enjoy the game, applauding for tries, they really appreciate the small things, especially in positions when the hard things need to be done.
“They appreciate what has happened in the past and you can mention the legends that have gone before us.
“But we obviously have to look forward. I don’t see myself going anywhere soon, because for sure we’re building something special here and it’s starting now this weekend again.
“It was great to be part of that, playing with guys like John Hayes and Jerry Flannery but you appreciate what’s gone and try to build on what’s new.
“I did have heroes and I think that is the great thing in rugby. I was in the Sharks and the team of the ’90s were the ones that you would talk about, but as a player you put that behind you because you can get lost in what’s been.
“I think we’re trying to put our own stamp on the ground and trying to build this team, and hopefully that can carry Munster forward like the supporters and the franchise expects.”
And Botha is keen to impart as much of his rugby knowledge on the next generation who will wear the Munster jersey.
“I don’t think I [officially] have a role to play but I feel I do want to have a role to play. It is something I am passionate about. I think we have guys coming through; guys like Stephen Archer who has international caps beneath his belt, the young loosehead Killer [Dave Kilcoyne], James [Cronin]; these guys are putting up their hands. It’s something that Ireland is aware of and developing at the moment. We’re busy doing our own thing in-house but I don’t want to get too far ahead; I still want to be a player and play at the highest level for as long as I can but for sure I think about that, and it is important that [all] the players give their expertise as much as they can.”
To ensure a steady supply of front row forwards, Botha suggested young players should be guided towards a specific position, loosehead, tighthead or hooker, when they leave secondary school.
“At that age you can get away with it [playing both] but as soon as you play serious games and haven’t played enough in the specific one then you’ll lack the experience.
“It’s simple enough to do the work that is necessary to suit that position; in the front row there is nothing special other than the fact that you have to work on the scrum position, and it is repetitive [stuff] besides everything else that they have these days like nutrition and fitness.”
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