Botha backing Kilcoyne to get the measure of Gill
The recruitment of South Africans by European clubs is very often down to scrummaging. At Thomond Park on Saturday, one 23-year-old Limerick-born prop would be forgiven for thinking he’s been transported to a Currie Cup battle when Pascal Gauzère (who replaces the injured Romain Poite) yells “crouch-touch-set.”
Naturally, the weather will be of some comfort for David Kilcoyne, as an Angela’s Ashes downpour is possible, but it looks like Matt Stevens and Schalk Brits, with John Smit to follow, will be putting the squeeze on the home-grown loosehead.
Sure, Stevens has 39 caps for England and the powerful Mouritz Botha in the Saracens secondrow has nine, but the accents betrays their true homeland. They will attempt to force Kilcoyne skywards early and often.
BJ Botha will have something to say about that.
“Yeah, there is a South African influence. Yeah, they are a massive side. They are not second in the Premiership for nothing. They are leading our Pool.We know what we need to do.”
We sought Botha’s opinion on Kilcoyne becoming a central part of Declan Kidney’s fast –tracking policy at the tail end of 2012. His rapid rise to be Cian Healy’s understudy ahead of Tom Court was down to Munster coach Rob Penney rating him ahead of Wian du Preez and Marcus Horan in the early weeks of this season.
It may be simply a case of doing the best in training against a scrummager of Botha’s calibre.
“He has got an opportunity and it is now about him standing up to that,” said the 25-times-capped Springbok tighthead.
“I think he has done hugely well across the park, individually as a ball carrier and on defence, but first and foremost he is up there to scrum well at loosehead.
“Yes, he has got international honours and he would look to improve all the time but this is another big test for him now against a big English pack.
“I see scrummaging as a pack, as a whole,” Botha continued. “You are only as good as the weakest link. I’ve done work with him. We have some really heated, productive scrum sessions.
“’Killer’ is a player that’s hungry, aggressive and that shows in his play. A lot of room for improvement, for sure, but he’s improved remarkably from where he has come from. But I think he was always going to be a player that pushed through the ranks.”
With just seven starts for Munster, Kilcoyne remains a novice. A 117-kilo novice maybe, but still he’s a prop with little experience against a punishing scrum like Saracens.
Botha isn’t worried, though.
“He’s young but he’s got the international chance, he’s felt what it is like to be out there. I think that can drive your hunger. I think a hungry player is very dangerous.”
Munster’s response to Saracens targeting Kilcoyne could well be Botha going after 26- year-old Welsh loosehead Rhys Gill. All told, it will be a challenging afternoon for Gauzère.
But there will be plenty of Sharks in the Limerick water come Saturday evening. Natal Sharks that is. Botha is one of them. So too is Smit and England’s blossoming inside centre Brad Barritt.
Now for the bait. Whether it’s Gill or Kilcoyne who prevails remains to be seen but BJ Botha will use every sinew of his muscular frame to ensure his young team-mate is not put through an ordeal.