Dubai Exiles have signaled their intent ahead of the new season by snapping up powerhouse Number 8 Jaen Botes from Abu Dhabi Saracens.
The gargantuan South African back-row forward has returned to the club where he spent his childhood, having played mini and youth rugby with Exiles before heading to the UK for university.
Since returning to the UAE in 2014, Botes, 27, has played the last three seasons with Sarries, winning the 2015 West Asia Championship, although he was ineligible for the final in Doha.
He has since gone on to make his UAE debut and become an integral part of national team set-up.
Exiles are in need of an injection of fresh blood after following up their 2015/16 West Asia and UAE Premiership double-winning campaign with a woeful 2016/17. And chairman Mike Wolff is delighted with the acquisition of the fiery and physical Botes.
“I am delighted that Jaen is returning to the Exiles,” Wolff said of Botes, who is relocating to Dubai for work.
“He actually played with us as a mini and youth player many years ago, and went on to achieve great things with his rugby outside the UAE and of course more recently with Abu Dhabi Saracens and the UAE national team.
“We are thrilled to have him joining our men’s squad for next season. He is a formidable leader on the pitch and he will bring passion, dedication and no little physicality to the team.”
Exiles have been busy in the early part of the summer, with former Munster back and one-time Ireland international Denis Hurley brought in as defence coach.
After ceding superiority to Abu Dhabi Harlequins last season, Exiles will be keen to return to challenging for honours in 2017/18.
And Wolff has confidence Botes’ addition will see them return to prominence.
“We continue to build on the solid platform established by Jacques (Benade, director of rugby) and the men’s section after winning the double two seasons ago,” added Wolff.
“Whilst last season didn’t go as well as we wished after Jacques’ barnstorming first year in charge, we remain on a very positive trajectory.
“As well as bringing former Munster and Ireland player Denis Hurley in, we also have some more strong additions to the squad to be announced shortly. In a really competitive UAE Premiership and Conference set-up we are excited and confident about what next season might bring.”
Fellow South African Benade is looking forward to Botes adding more steel to Exiles’ pack.