Fly half Ben Botica shows there could yet be life after Nick Evans at Harlequins
On the radar: Quins number 10 Ben Botica, son of Kiwi rugby league legend Frano Botica showed his big match temperament at the Stoop on Saturday night Deadlinepix SP71162
Quins fly half Ben Botica has insisted he is in England to learn his trade as much as anything else and still has a dream of becoming a senior All Black – for now.
The 23-year-old announced his arrival in English and European rugby with a stand-out display in Saturday’s 40-13 Heineken Cup win over Biarritz.
Botica, son of All Blacks and Wigan rugby league legend Frano Botica, came off the bench for his only his second appearance for the club after mercurial number ten Nick Evans suffered an ankle injury.
He kicked 18 points as Quins romped to a bonus point victory over their main Pool Three rivals, thanks to tries from England scrum half Danny Care, Rob Buchanan, Jordan Turner-Hall and Seb Stegmann.
Botica, who spent last year in the French second tier with Périgueux, has represented New Zealand Schools, but has a British passport after spending eight-years in England with his father as a child.
He signed a two-year deal at the Stoop in the summer having found opportunities to play top level rugby frustrated in his homeland and the Auckland Blues.
And having confirmed his eligibility to play for the Red Rose at the weekend, he admitted there remained unfinished business back home.
“I’ve been wanting to play some top level rugby for so long it was an awesome experience and I loved every single minute of it,” said Botica.
“It felt like my career was going around in circles in New Zealand. There are so many high quality first fives back home I didn’t feel like I was going to get the chance to develop my game.
“I got the offer from Harlequins and with them being the team they are, it was too good an opportunity to turn down. They really suit my style of game.
“Becoming an All Black is kind of bred into you back home and to get an All Black cap at any level would be a dream come true.
“I have a two year contract with Quins here. I’ll make the most of it and will re-evaluate things when it is over.”
Botica, who made his Quins debut with a ten minute cameo against London Welsh earlier in the season, could not hope for a better tutor than Evans.
The North Harbour boy is likely to replace his injured 32-year-old mentor for this weekend’s Heineken Cup trip to Connacht, having looked to the manor born at the Stoop.
But Botica was quick to thank his team mates for giving him an easy ride – particularly with Care and man of the match Nick Easter orchestrating things from the base of the scrums and rucks.
“Nick has been around the track and you always try to pick up things from him and copy what he does because he has been there,” he added.
“Our games are quite similar. I like to attack the line quite a bit and play close to the gain line.
“It was great on Saturday because I had Danny on my inside and then there is Jordan Turner-Hall and Matt Hopper telling me what to do on the outside, which made things easier.
“If I don’t start at the weekend I'm ready to wait in the wings and do my bit when I’m needed.”