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Botha happy as mentor as he assesses long-term plans with Boks

South Africa Springboks Bakkies Botha addresses a media conference in Wellington October 4, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
South Africa Springboks Bakkies Botha addresses a media conference in Wellington October 4, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

By Nick Said

(Reuters) - Veteran South Africa lock Bakkies Botha is enjoying his mentoring role within the Springbok squad although he has yet to make up his mind on a long-term future with the team.

The 34-year-old has hinted his commitments at French Top 14 side Toulon may be the deciding factor in whether his stay is a brief one or not, but for now he is reveling in his role as experienced leader.

"Coming out of the Toulon set-up where they ask a lot of the player to here... I am just taking it week by week, I don't want to make any long-term decisions," Botha said at a press conference in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

Botha was called up by coach Heyneke Meyer not only as a back-up option in the second row, but also because the coach believes he can help the development of the side's locks, notably exciting youngsters Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth.

"I know there are some big players coming through and for now as long as I can rub off some of my experience on to the youngsters and they feed off it, that is the role I want to play.

"I know I don't have another four or five years left in me, the body is getting older, so for me it is a privilege to play that role to Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth."

Wing Bryan Habana, a World Cup winner with Botha in 2007 and now a clubmate at Toulon, has hailed the impact of a player whose physicality on the field made him a feared opponent.

"Having played with Bakkies for a long time now and also recently going over to Toulon, to see the presence that he still has within the squad is immense," Habana said.

"He came back for that first week in Cardiff and youngsters like Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth looked up in awe at this legend of the game. Seeing guys like Siya Kolisi and Marcell Coetzee still calling him ‘Oom' (uncle) was pretty special.

"His presence is something that each and every team values and to have a guy with not only the physical presence but the integrity that he has within the Bok squad is special."

Botha is likely to be handed his first Springbok cap since the 2011 World Cup when South Africa play Scotland in Edinburgh on Sunday , with Meyer already stating he will shuffle his pack following the 24-15 victory over Wales last weekend.

(Reporting by Nick Said in Cape Town; editing by Alison Wildey)

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