Johann van Graan believes new signing Arno Botha will add strength and depth to Munster’s back-row resources when the Springbok arrives this summer on a one-year contract.
The 26-year-old, who will join from London Irish subject to medical clearance and the granting of a work permit, worked with van Graan when the Munster head coach was an assistant at both the Bulls and the South African national side when Botha, his country’s former U20 captain, earned two Test caps in 2013.
Described as an explosive ball carrier who can play across the back row, the 16st 8lbs (105kg), 6ft 3ins (190cm) Botha has struggled with injuries since his Springbok debut and was set to join Ulster from the Bulls last summer with then director of rugby Les Kiss hailing his new signing in January 2017 when he said: “Arno was tipped to be a future Springboks captain from a young age but his career was somewhat curtailed by injuries after he made his international debut in 2013.
“His leadership and abrasiveness will be key attributes for us . He is very aggressive in attack and his ability to get over the gainline will be especially good for us. Arno is also strong in defence, he’s a nuisance at the breakdown and he’s a good lineout option, so he has a very well-rounded game.”
Kiss was however forced to call the move off on medical advice that May but finally worked with Botha on his appointment as London Irish head coach under Declan Kidney, the South African having signed for the English strugglers in January.
Now relegated, the London Irish clearout has seen Botha reunited with Munster boss van Graan, who said: “In building our squad for next season I believe Arno will be a great addition to our side, adding further depth and strength to our back row options.
“From my time with the Bulls and South Africa I have first-hand experience of what Arno is capable of. A physical ball carrier and lineout jumper, he leads by example with his work-rate, commitment and physicality, and we look forward to welcoming him to the province.”
Botha will be seen as a direct replacement for Connacht-bound Robin Copeland, who is set to leave at the end of the season and will join a back-row pool at Munster featuring Ireland internationals Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander, Tommy O’Donnell and Jack O’Donoghue as well as fellow South African Chris Cloete and homegrown players Dave O’Callaghan and Conor Oliver.
He is the fourth new signing for next season with fellow forward Tadhg Beirne set to join from Scarlets, full-back Mike Haley moving from Sale Sharks and scrum-half Neil Cronin inking professional forms from Garryowen.
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