TOP BAR - Fixtures

Newcastle Falcons’ Mouritz Botha ready to renew hostilities with old friends

Mouritz Botha will put friendships to one side for 80 minutes this weekend, but the Newcastle Falcons lock is relishing the chance to return to his old haunt at Saracens.

Falcons take on the defending champions in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on Saturday, having gone down to Northampton Saints a week ago.

Botha is in line to face his former side – where he spent five years from 2009 to 2014 – after missing most of what has been a frustrating season so far through injury.

Click here for the latest fixtures and results from the Anglo-Welsh Cup

And while most forwards might be daunted by the prospect of a free-flowing encounter on the artificial turf at Allianz Park, Botha can’t wait to get back out there.

He said: “I’m really looking forward to it, it’s always nice to get down there.

“I’ve still got a lot of friends at the club, although I don’t know how many will be involved this weekend.

“I really like playing on an artificial pitch, so to be able to do so away from home as well is great.

“The good thing is that the ball bounces true, you don’t have to worry about all the mud, and it’s a much quicker game. Some people might not like that but it’s a good challenge.”

Botha has had to be patient this season, spending the best part of three months on the sidelines after sustaining a neck injury at the start of the season.

That kept him out for 12 weeks, and means that he’s only featured in two European games to date.

Click here for the latest Anglo-Welsh Cup tables and an explanation of the format of the tournament

As a result, it’s a case of making up for lost time for the former England lock, and Botha is keen to show he is back up to speed.

He added: “I played off the bench in those two European games, the second was probably better than the first.

“For the first six to eight weeks when I was off it was a case of working the lower body and then gradually testing the neck after that.

“It was good to get back out there though and I just want to keep going now.

“The season has gone pretty well for us so far, although we were disappointed with our loss to Wasps in the last Aviva Premiership Rugby game. It was one of those where the result didn’t really reflect the performance.

“But we learned that we can’t afford to make those little mistakes so hopefully we can build from it.”

The second round of the Anglo-Welsh Cup kicks off this weekend. For full details of the tournament and tickets for the Final at the Twickenham Stoop on Sunday 19 March see www.new-heroes.com

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