Arno Botha happy to stand with CJ Stander at Munster
Backrowers came through ranks together at Bulls but were never friends until now
Munster’s Arno Botha drives forward against Zebre last week. Photograph: Matteo Ciambelli /Inpho
Munster backrow Arno Botha says he is driven to prove himself worthy of a place in the Munster squad for the bigger games and says he delighted to renew his rivalry with compatriot CJ Stander at the province.
Both Botha (27) and Stander (28) came through the ranks at the Bulls in South Africa, but according to Stander, he was deemed too small to be a No 8 and joined Munster. Meanwhile, Botha was retained and went on to represent South Africa during his seven-year stint at the club.
Botha admits himself and Stander were not always the best of friends, but they have put their differences aside since he made the switch to Munster. And the affable Botha has heaped praise on Stander for everything he has achieved since he moved to Limerick.
“We played 2011 in the Currie Cup and for the under-20s, -21s and won a trophy together. We weren’t really good friends then but we are now. We speak and joke a lot about that,” said Botha, who signed a one-year deal for Munster earlier this year.
“I don’t know if you can say he was unlucky [to leave the Bulls], because obviously it’s not really that unlucky to play for Ireland now, but it worked out well for him.
“But that’s also because of the hard work that he has been doing. So yeah, at that stage we were in competition and obviously he made the right decision to come here.
“You have to respect the guys here, the loose forwards, especially Pete [O’Mahony] and CJ being British & Irish Lions players. It’s not every guy who can say he is that. You have to respect that, and then do what you can do and make the team better and make myself better to make that starting line-up.”
Botha made the move from London Irish this summer to link up with Johann van Graan once again, another Munster man with a Bulls history, but he has refused to draw a line under his Springboks career.
Botha won the last of his two international caps in 2013 and he is keen to catch Rassie Erasmus’s eye while plying his trade in Europe.
“For me, to stay in Europe is the goal. I know if I’m good enough, I can still make the South African squad and make that team. But again it’s a case of having respect for players who stay [at home].
“I know Rassie has been working with a lot of those guys in his career and obviously he has a plan that he wants to do. Obviously if I can make it playing out of Europe, it would be the perfect world.
“It would be great to play for South Africa again, but at the moment it is not something I think of daily. Their season is also over and only starts again in June, and I know that Rassie has been working with a plan working towards the World Cup.
“I don’t think he will take out players and bring in players before then. If you are a really special player then you might do it.”
Botha has started the last two games for Munster and has impressed hugely in those wins over Cheetahs and Zebre, but he is keen to retain his place for tomorrow’s clash with Edinburgh in Cork, while not getting too worked up about it either.
“Of course the competition is tough but I don’t think about it like that. At Munster, we try to make the team better and if I can do that in any way I can, then I will do so.
“That’s where you need to trust the coach also, to make the right decisions. I can only do what I can do, to play the games I play, if I focus on games still to come. I have no control over that so I’m wasting my energy on that.”