sport

Borthwick happy to humour Botha

Steve Borthwick will suffer Mouritz Botha's harebrained line-out ruses one last time in Saturday's Aviva Premiership final.

Borthwick will then call quits on 16 years at rugby's coalface.

The Saracens captain has humoured lock partner Botha's wackier ideas for five years, but freely admits he will miss the changing-room blue-sky thinking once his time is up.

The 34-year-old will retire immediately after Saracens' Premiership showpiece at Twickenham against Northampton Saints to take up a coaching role with Japan.

But win or lose this weekend, the former Bath second row vowed to bow out sated by captaining England and earning the respect of his peers.

"I get changed next to Mouritz Botha, and every morning he has some new ridiculous idea for me, for us to try," said Borthwick.

"And I send him off to see the coaches to see if he can get it through.

"I say 'I agree Mo, that's a great idea' and he shoots off to see Mark McCall.

"I think I'll only really realise what I miss most once September comes and I see Saracens playing again.

"I'll probably only realise that then.

"But the friendships I've created, that will continue and that will come with me.

"Only just a few weeks ago I met up with a load of old friends and team-mates that I hadn't seen in quite a long time and it felt like only yesterday we were playing alongside each other.

"I feel content with it all, I've been a professional for 16 years, I've played for two great clubs in Bath and Saracens, and I think I've earned the respect of my team-mates and made lots of great friends along the way.

"I look back and I'm sure I will do so more in years to come, and I'm content with it, it's been a fantastic journey, as a player, and hopefully there's plenty more steps still to go in this brilliant sport."

Borthwick captained England between 2008 and 2010 under Martin Johnson's much-criticised regime.

The 57-cap lock's leadership was never universally endorsed, but he said he will retire safe in the knowledge that he holds the esteem of those he cares for most.

Borthwick said he will always treasure the privilege of achieving the lifelong ambition of captaining England shared by rugby enthusiasts nationwide.

"That's up to other people to decide," said Borthwick, when asked how he would like his career remembered.

"From my team-mates, family and friends I believe I've earned their respect, I believe they know how much I want to play well for them.

"As long as they think well of me, that's all that matters.

"Other people can think what they like to be honest.

"To have been involved at this great club, to have represented another great club in Bath before that, and to have represented England, who wouldn't bite your hand off to be able to do what I've done?"

Pectoral trouble almost ruled Borthwick out of both the Heineken Cup final and this weekend's league showdown.

Toulon outmuscled Saracens 23-6 in Cardiff to retain their European crown last weekend, leaving Borthwick and company desperate for silverware against Saints.

"I'm good and ready to go this weekend," said Borthwick, relieved to have shaken off his injury.

"It wasn't a great situation, but I was fortunate that here we've got a great medical team.

"I've thanked them personally, so I'll thank them publicly, they've helped me not just in this last fortnight, but throughout my time here.

"Obviously when you've played as many games as I have there's a little bit of wear and tear.

"I'm not sure who's lined up to take my seven o'clock physio slot once I've gone!

"It takes a toll but playing this amazing sport, whether you earn money for it or not, it's a privilege.

"There are costs along the way, there are things that take their toll, but I honestly don't bat an eyelid at those now.

"I'd go back and do it all again, to have all those experiences again, I'm content, it's been an amazing journey.

"And to think when I was 14 years old saying I want to play for England, in 1995 rugby turned professional and I was asked at school filling in careers forms, I wrote down I wanted to be a pro rugby player.

"To have been able to do that for 16 years, have those experiences, see parts of the world, play around the world, it's amazing.

"But the biggest part of all is the respect of team-mates and the friends I've made."