Saracens forward putting England partnership to one side

St Albans & Harpenden Review: Mouritz Botha is ready to focus on the Premiership rivalry after his spell with England: Action Images Mouritz Botha is ready to focus on the Premiership rivalry after his spell with England: Action Images

Geoff Parling might be the perfect partner in the England engine room but Mouritz Botha insists he plans to put friendship to one side in pursuit of another Premiership crown.

Parling won his first cap at the start of the 2012 Six Nations, aged 28, as the late bloomer who saw injury troubles perennially cost him his big break finally got his chance.

Lining up next to Parling, who started England’s last three matches, was South African Botha, who at 30, was also among the senior citizens in the new youthful Red Rose set up.

The duo struck up a fine partnership to help guide England to second place but now both have returned to their clubs with the Leicester lock and the Sarries skyscraper both vying for another Aviva Premiership title.

Saracens, currently second in the table, lead third-placed Leicester by four points and as it stands the Men in Black would face the Tigers in a repeat of the last two finals for a place in this year’s showpiece event at Twickenham.

And while Botha believes he and Parling are a match made in heaven in England white, there will be no old pals’ act should the duo square off against each other at Rugby HQ later this season.

“I think Geoff and I complement each other well and off the field we have a quite a good relationship and we grew closer as the Six Nations went on,” said Botha.

“I enjoyed playing with him. It’s nice to have a few familiar and friendly faces around the camp and have a bit of banter but more importantly, that was part of the new culture and everyone enjoyed the experience.

“The team spirit was great and you just have to look at some of the more experienced players and coaches who believe it has been the best team spirit in years.

“But this is the business end of the season and every game we play now is very important and so we forget about the international stuff and go straight back into club loyalties.

“All the players know that and everyone has taken that responsibility upon themselves and they know what is at stake every time they take the field between now and the rest of the season.”

Botha is the first to admit that when Parling’s Leicester defeated Sarries 33-27 in the 2009-10 final, it did not sit well with him and that served as the catalyst for his side’s victory last season.

And Botha has revealed Sarries are taking a leaf out of Parling and co’s book and trying to set about dominating for years to come.

He added: “Winning the Premiership last season was a great achievement and it made all the players hungrier for more success. We’re striving towards being there at the end of the season and lifting the trophy again.

“We were very disappointed two years ago when we lost to Leicester in the final and we came back even hungrier last year.”

If you buy a ticket for this year’s Aviva Premiership Final on 26 May you will receive a free rugby shirt. Go to www.premiershiprugby.com/freeshirt to buy yours.

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