Sport / Rugby

Sport Staff
2 minute read
16 Jan 2017
2:13 pm

Springbok Arno Botha also joins the big trek to Europe

Sport Staff

The Bulls' former SA Under-20 skipper, thankfully, played in two Tests, meaning he can't qualify for Ireland through new team Ulster.

Arno Botha is lost to South African rugby for at least two years. Photo: Johan Rynners/Gallo Images.

South African rugby’s talent drain continues unabated.

Irish giants Ulster on Monday confirmed the signing of versatile Bulls flanker Arno Botha, throwing a spanner in the works.

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Nollis Marais, the Pretoria-based side’s head coach, had pinned much of his young side’s revival on the leadership of the former national Under-20 captain.

Instead, the Bulls need to find reinforcements at the end of this year’s Super Rugby campaign, when Botha’s two-year agreement in Ireland kicks in.

One positive thing to come out of the bad news is that the 25-year-old won’t be eligible to qualify for Ireland like former Bulls teammate CJ Stander.

In 2013, Botha was fast-tracked into the Springbok side by Heyneke Meyer and played two Tests.

World Rugby’s rules prevent him from playing for another country.

Botha sustained a serious knee injury in his second Test and has remained injury-prone ever since.

That said, he was influential in the Blue Bulls reaching the Currie Cup final last year, clearly relishing the extra responsibility as captain.

It’s one of the reasons Ulster crave his services.

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“His leadership and abrasiveness will be key attributes for us over the next couple of seasons,” Les Kiss, Ulster’s director of rugby, said in a statement.

“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 line-out option, so he has a very well-rounded game.”

The Bulls expressed their regret at losing Botha but admitted they simply don’t have the funds to match his new offer.

“The situation is that we can’t financially make an offer close to what he’s currently earning,” said Xander Janse van Rensburg, the Bulls’ high performance manager.

“Luckily we have great players coming through that we will be investing in.”

Botha’s new chapter doesn’t mean he’ll be distracted in 2017’s local campaign.

“I have achieved a lot with the Bulls and will give my all to help the team to try and win the Super Rugby title in 2017, something that has eluded me so far in my career,” he said.

Botha joins fellow Bok flanker Marcell Coetzee at the Irish side.

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