Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Botha hails North star

George North

Springboks hardman Bakkies Botha has led the tributes to Welsh teenage sensation George North, hailing his stunning Test debut as "formidable."

And North's Wales team-mates - led by 97-cap veteran Martyn Williams, who is almost twice the Scarlets wing's age - also queued up to acclaim their brilliant new kid on the block. North has already been dubbed the Welsh Jonah Lomu, and the 18-year-old's two-try display in a 29-25 defeat against world champions South Africa did nothing to dispel such media hype.

Injuries permitting, a long Test career lies in store for 6ft 4in North, and 70 times-capped Springboks lock Botha said: "He has a lot of talent. He showed some class. If they can look after him, he will definitely be a good player for Wales in the future."

He added: "At his age, to come and play the kind of rugby he played against the Springboks is formidable. He's a player to keep your eye on for the future."

North became only the eighth Welsh player to score two tries or more on their international debut, and the first since his current colleague Tom Shanklin nine years ago.

He also posted the second-quickest Wales debut try in history, his sixth-minute effort being eclipsed only by hooker Barry Williams' second-minute touchdown against France in 1996.

North was just four-years-old when flanker Williams made his Wales debut in the same year, and the Cardiff Blues openside claimed: "He is unbelievable for an 18-year-old guy. It was not only his tries, it was his work-rate and appetite coming off his wing and looking for the ball. It was one of the best debuts I've ever seen."

And full-back Lee Byrne, whose link with North in the Welsh back-three alongside Shane Williams posed South Africa all kinds of problems, added: "George's debut was a dream.

"He will go back to school on Monday, and I am sure he won't know what has gone on!

"Two tries on his debut against South Africa and to have Bryan Habana's jersey at the end, it's a dream day for him. He handled himself really well, and you saw his physical presence. I am really pleased for him.