South African-born England lock Mouritz Botha has travelled a long road to the Test rugby arena and will get an opportunity to establish himself in the upcoming Six Nations.
Botha has impressed for the last few seasons with his consistency for Premiership champions Saracens and now has the opportunity to cement his place in the England set-up after being denied a spot in Martin Johnson's World Cup squad by veteran Simon Shaw.
The story of how Botha came to play for Saracens shows just how determined he will be to grab the opportunity to impress under England's new coaching team.
After battling to get his career off the ground playing club rugby in South Africa, Botha sent his cv to a few clubs in England in 2004 and moved across to play Bedford Athletic in the English third division.
In his time with the club he worked in day jobs as an office assistant, at a carpet washing factory and even stripping asbestos out of houses.
Botha was putting in the hard work at training as well and while he was playing for the Bedford Blues in 2009 an agent approached him via facebook to set up an interview with a Saracens panel of Brendan Venter, Edward Griffiths and Morne Du Plessis.
In his time with Saracens Botha has transformed his game and now stands on the brink of a Test career which officially started in a World Cup warm-up game against Wales last year.
But it is the Six Nations that will be Botha's big chance to impress, although at 30 he is one of the older men in Stuart Lancaster's squad.
It is something that is not lost on Botha, who is visibly excited about the possibilities under the trio of his former Saxons coach Stuart Lancaster, Saracens man Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree.
He told this website: "It is a fresh start, the core of the squad has remained but there are a lot of new guys coming in with fresh ideas who will be wanting to make an impression on the coaches and everyone else to stake a claim in the long run.
"I have worked with Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree and I have enjoyed working with all of them. I think that with the people they have, if we can get the right team spirit and cohesion right then England can be very successful," said Botha.
Botha is another who is more than confident that England have the talent to mount a revival, but he stressed the need for the correct environment to be created.
"I think that the coaches will get the environment right and the rest will take care of itself, if they get the environment right then the team spirit will be there," he said.
The physical lock has worked hard in recent times at his performance at set-piece time, and he believes that his game as a lock who is dependable in the scrums and line-outs will suit the direction that England's new coaching staff will want to take.
He explained: "I think all of them will want to play based on a strong set-piece, Graham Rowntree is renowned for his scrumming prowess and coaching ability so we will have a good set-piece and when the ball comes out of the scrum there will be some good rugby I think.
"Over the last three season it (set-piece) has been a massive focus of mine and I have learnt so much over that time. I have learned a lot from Steve Borthwick in the line-outs and Alex Sanderson and Carlos Nieto have also helped me a lot with scrummaging,"added Botha.
There will be more than a few England players who will be keen to identify themselves as key for the future in the upcoming Six Nations, and with all the hard work that he has put in to get there Botha will surely be among the most desperate to succeed.
Lancaster will no doubt be keen to tap into the hunger of players like that to drive his Six Nations audition.
By Michael de Vries
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