We’ve all seen the glorious sight of Bakkies Botha’s fury unleashed on a rugby pitch as he rains blows down upon a helpless opponent trapped at the bottom of the ruck, but not many know that this man of steel had humble origins as a fine arts graduate.
The younger Bakkies graduated with a masters degree in Fine Arts from the University of Pofadder with stars in his eyes and a burning passion to reinvent the rules of stage theatre – he wanted to see his name in the lights on Broadway. Bakkies’ masters thesis was entitled “the Story of Winter – as told through the medium of interpretative dance” and his one man show was hailed by all who saw it as “a new direction for drama” (quote from the Pofadder Daily Post).
A short stint in Romanian cinema saw him take the role of the Little Shepherd Boy in the cult indie classic film “Pablo Finds a Pebble” and the future looked bright for our young actor who had left Pofadder armed only with the ambition in his heart, his faded Andy Warhol t shirt and a pair of really short shorts.
Soon Bakkies would be involved in avant-gard theatre performances throughout Eastern Europe as the former Soviet Union collapsed around him. It was there, in a little dusky Warsaw theatre where Heyneke Meyer spotted Bakkies Botha and immediately recognized that he could solve Meyer’s problems at the Bulls. Heyneke was looking to bolster his weak Bulls squad by adding the kind of man who rips faces off of Antipodeans for the sheer enjoyment of it. Fortunately for South African rugby Bakkies just happened to be giving a particularly intense performance in the role of Hannibal Lecter that evening. Heyneke offered him a Bulls contract on the spot after the show… and the rest is Springbok rugby history.
Bakkies went on to win Super rugby winners medals with the Bulls, Tri Nations gold, a World Cup winners medal and a win over the British Lions. Along the way, he also managed to earn a bit of infamy for the odd eye gouge, a Jimmy Cowan headbutt (hey, who wouldn’t want to headbutt Jimmy Cowan?) and earned the respect of his peers by returning to the locker room at half time with a lock of George Smith’s hair.
You’ve still got a few years left in you Bakkies and place in your cabinet for one more Rugby World Cup medal. Make little Makkies proud.