London Irish have landed South African back row Arno Botha from the Blue Bulls with immediate effect.
Capped twice by the Springboks, the 26-year-old can operate as either a flanker or number eight and has teamed up with fellow countrymen Franco van der Merwe, Petrus Du Plessis, Sebastian De Chaves and Richard Palframan at the club’s Hazelwood training complex today.
The explosive ball carrier made 82 appearances for the Blue Bulls, skippering the side to the Currie Cup Final in 2016 to underline his credentials as an effective leader.
Botha rose to prominence for South Africa Under-20s during the 2011 IRB Junior World Championship, scoring six tries on his way to being named South Africa Under-20 Player of the Year.
His rise in stock earnt him a call-up to the Springbok senior set-up two years later, when he made his debut against Italy in Durban. Highly thought of by the Blue Bulls, Botha signed a contract extension with the Pretoria-based club the same year. Cherwell Software, already an Official Partner of London Irish, are delighted to be announced as Arno Botha’s corporate sponsor for this season.
“I’m delighted to have the opportunity to join London Irish, a club that is steeped in history and tradition,” said Arno Botha.
“I’ve always wanted to test myself in northern hemisphere rugby and I’m really looking forward to the challenge of helping the club secure its Aviva Premiership status.”
Exiles’ director of rugby Nick Kennedy said: “Arno is an aggressive ball carrier, who has the ability to consistently get over the gain line.
“From a young age Arno was tipped as a future Springbok captain, but injuries hampered his progress. However, he’s now back to full fitness and his injuries are very much behind him as he looks to make an immediate impact with us.”
London Irish’s next home game will be against Krasny Yar in the European Rugby Challenge Cup on Saturday 13 January. Under 13s tickets are just £1 throughout the stadium with adults from £18 from www.lidirect.co.uk or by calling 0118 968 1016 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday 9am to noon).