Derek Botha (DB): I started with Bulletjie rugby when I was about five or six years old. I’m not a guy who actually plans for the future, [but] if I [do] get the opportunity to play pro, then I will seize the moment.

What has been the biggest challenge for you in chasing the UP-Tuks 1 dream thus far?

PG: To get to the level they are on without preseason [training]. I actually struggled with conditioning and fitness. Just as an example, in res rugby I could only bear crawl 22 metres. For UP-Tuks 1, I had to bear crawl 22 metres 10 times, which basically equals to 220m.

DB: UP-Tuks 1 and res rugby are on two totally different levels. Moving from res rugby to UP-Tuks 1 was a mission mainly because you kind of have to catch up from not having preseason [training]. It took a lot of effort but it eventually paid off.

What has been the proudest moment for you as a rugby player?

PG: It would have to be the first time I walked into the UP-Tuks 1 locker room. I didn’t think it would be so professional. They have all the names of all the former Springboks who played for them on top of the locker you are assigned to via your position. They also put your name there as well.

DB: Apart from the locker room, it has to be the call I received. I originally wasn’t in the squad, but a few days after the Tuks Barbarians game against UJ I had just walked out of class and I received the call up from the coach. He basically asked me to come and train with them and I agreed.

What has been the lowest moment for you in the sport?

PG: It has to be the red card I received in the Carlton Cup final. I was sent off in the seventh minute of the game and I basically had to watch the whole final, all 73 minutes of it, from the sidelines.

DB: I haven’t really had any apart from injuries and yellow cards here and there. Also, when you lose you can easily get over those things, so I haven’t really had one.

In terms of making it this far in rugby, what or who has continually pushed you and what made it possible for you to come this far?

PG: My mom, dad and brother. I had actually stopped playing in first and second-year when I was at Pukke. I had offers from the Sharks but I was never conditioned so it was hard for me to break into the team. I then decided that after school, I’m just going to go and study. While at Pukke, a mate invited me to play res rugby. After Pukke, I moved to Pretoria for my second degree and I also stopped because I wasn’t conditioned. Again, I was invited to play for res and was injured in the first three games. I continued after I got better and I was spotted by UP-Tuks 1. After a few sessions with Naat, the UP-Tuks 1 conditioning coach, I can happily say I’m a lot better.

DB: Also my mom and dad. My mom was against rugby at first, but when she started seeing how far I was going she warmed up to the idea. My dad was supportive from the start. He told me if I wanted to be an engineer, I must do it. [If] I wanted to be a brick maker, I must do it. After school, I went to Stellenbosch University and I [gave] up on rugby. [I] moved to Tuks and I played badminton and we won USSA (University Sports South Africa) in 2012. In 2013, I started playing for my res for fun. Pieter and I started practicing extra on our own just for the fitness. We did our best and everything else just fell into place.

Pieter Griesel and Derek Botha. Image provided.

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