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Botha warning over Italy clash

Saracens lock Mouritz Botha has warned his England team-mates not to take Italy lightly as they bid to build on their opening RBS 6 Nations win over Scotland.

England secured a 13-6 win at Murrayfield but Botha knows that will count for little if they slip up in the Stadio Olimpico.

Botha said: "It will be a big battle. Italy are one of the sides which has made massive strides over the past few years. They are not a wooden-spoon team any more. At home in their new stadium they will be up for the challenge with 70,000 fans behind them."

The games and the stadia keep getting bigger for Botha, who moved from South Africa to England in October 2004 after National League Three club Bedford Athletic were the only one of 20 clubs to answer his letter.

Botha moved on to the Bedford Blues in 2006 and then, in 2010, saw a message on Facebook that Saracens were looking to bolster their second-row options.

The interview panel was daunting - director of rugby Brendan Venter and Morne du Plessis, the former South Africa international and manager of the 1995 World Cup-winning Springboks.

Botha's hunger impressed Du Plessis, who immediately recommended Saracens sign the former carpet washer and asbestos stripper despite having never seen him play.

When Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths rang to offer Botha the deal, he had not even left the car park.

"Brendan Venter was at the meeting with Morne du Plessis," Botha said. "I said 'today is the biggest day of my life and career and to be sitting here so close to actually achieving (a move to the Premiership) is a massive opportunity and one I really want'.

"I later found out that when I left the room Brendan Venter turned to Morne du Plessis and asked him what he thought. He said he didn't know much of my rugby and hadn't seen any videos but he would sign me because I wanted it so much. That is what swayed them, the fact that I had such a hunger to be successful at that level."


From Belfast Telegraph