The Sharks’ ever-growing transfer list increased by one on Monday, as stalwart lock Ruan Botha was announced as a London Irish player.
Botha has been the Sharks captain over the last few seasons, but was replaced by Louis Schreuder for the 2019 Super Rugby season.
He has been hampered by injury this year, although he made a big impact upon his return in their tour of Australia and New Zealand.
The 27-year-old, who was part of the SA Under-20 squad that won the Junior World Cup in 2012, has previously played for the Lions and Stormers.
But it is at the Sharks where he has established himself as a senior player, with his lineout-jumping and defensive work his main strengths.
However, he is yet to crack the nod for Springbok selection, so his move to the Exiles is unsurprising.
He joins a number of his fellow Sharks teammates who will be playing elsewhere after the Super Rugby season ends, such as the Du Preez brothers Robert, Jean-Luc and Dan, Akker van der Merwe and Coenie Oosthuizen.
London Irish said that Botha will initially play for them on a six-month contract as cover during the World Cup, whereafter he will turn out for Kubota Spears in Japan, before going back to Irish in June next year.
The club have made some big signings, including All Black wing Waisake Naholo and Wallabies Nick Phipps and Sekope Kepu.
“Ruan being available during the Rugby World Cup period is a major boost to us. He has a lot of top-class rugby experience and will also bring a lot more to the squad in terms of his leadership qualities,” London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney said.
Botha added on Monday: “London Irish is entering an exciting period in its history, and I am immensely proud to be joining at such an important time as they return to the Premiership. I look forward to meeting up with my teammates for pre-season.”@ashfakmohamed