HEAD coach Nick Kennedy believes South African duo Arno Botha and Piet van Zyl can help London Irish maintain their Aviva Premiership status after making eye-catching debuts in the 66-7 Anglo-Welsh Cup demolition of an understrength Wasps on Saturday, writes Richard Ashton.

The pair joined Exiles from South African Super 15 side Blue Bulls last month, with Botha impressing in the back row on his first start and scrum half van Zyl coming off the bench to score a second-half try at Madejski Stadium.

A Joe Cokanasiga hat-trick was part of a 10-try demolition which also saw Alex Lewington, Scott Steele, Ollie Hoskins, James Marshall, Aseli Tikoirotuma and Saia Fangia’a cross the whitewash as the hosts secured a third straight win.

And Kennedy was delighted with his new signings, telling the Chronicle: “I thought Piet looked really sharp off the bench.

“He looked quick and it was nice for him to score a try, while Arno’s hands and his hand-off to set up Alex’s try were excellent.

“He looked explosive, had good acceleration and for debuts – having been in the system for two weeks – I thought they were both very impressive.”

Kennedy was also glowing in his praise for young duo Theo Brophy Clews and Cokanasiga, the former securing man-of-the-match honours.

He commented: “Theo is a confident kid. He was captain of England Under 20s and you’re confident if you prepare well.

“He works so hard at his game on and off the pitch. He’s desperate to improve at every single training session and he’s everything that we’re about.

“After missing last week with a niggle, it’s great he carried the form of two weeks ago when he got four tries into this game.”

On Cokanasiga, he added: “Joe is just getting better week on week.”