Prodigal son Arno Botha back at Loftus as Bulls continue shopping spree
Overall uncertainty seems a foreign concept to the Bulls under Jake White after they confirmed a former favourite Arno Botha is back in Pretoria.
The imposing, versatile 28-year-old flanker is the fourth high-profile acquisition for the Loftus-based franchise, following the re-signing of Springbok stalwart Duane Vermeulen as well as the capture of experienced international tighthead Marcel van der Merwe and evergreen veteran utility back Gio Aplon.
The Bulls' shopping spree is in stark contrast to the prevailing gloomy climate of austerity and the controversial "opt-out" clause agreed upon by the players and SA Rugby, which has raised concerns of further defections overseas.
Botha, a two-cap Bok as a 21-year-old under Heyneke Meyer way back in 2013, joins the franchise on the back of a career renaissance in Ireland the past two years, where he firmly re-established himself as one of South Africa’s premier loose forwards.
His career was in the doldrums in mid-2017 after an umpteenth injury setback saw Ulster renege on an agreement with him, the club citing he was too much of a risk.
That left him in limbo at Loftus too as the Bulls had already been primed for his departure at the conclusion of that year’s edition of Super Rugby.
Botha was granted a short-term reprieve by appearing for London Irish before Munster, with former Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan at the helm, came knocking.
With his body holding up and Van Graan’s guidance proving instrumental, the Modimolle-born bruiser flourished.
Standing 1.88m in his boots and tipping the scales at a weighty 108kg, Botha's form had been so compelling this season that the Pro14, based on match statistics, named him as one of the ten leading players in the tournament.
With the burly Marco van Staden still part of the Bulls’ plans, White could lay claim to having the luxury of picking one of the most formidable loose trios on the local circuit.
- Compiled by Heinz Schenk