Northamptonshire have signed the South African allrounder Johann Louw as a replacement for their overseas fast bowler Andre Nel, who has been ruled out for the coming season through international commitments.

Louw, a 24-year-old middle-order batsman and seam bowler, was born in Cape Town but plays his cricket for Eastern Province - the side that is coached by Northamptonshire's first-team manager, Kepler Wessels. He scored his maiden first-class century against Boland last October, after moving from Griqualand West at the beginning of the season.

"Johann comes highly recommended by Kepler, who described him as `pretty sharp' with the ball," said John Scopes, Northants's cricket chairman. "Obviously losing Andre is a disappointment but we think we have a fine cricketer to replace him, and everyone is looking forward to meeting Johann."

Nel had originally hoped to return to Northants after a successful season in 2003, but was unable to fulfil his contract after becoming a fixture in the South African team this winter. Louw will join forces with another South African, the batsman Martin van Jaarsveld, as Northamptonshire look to build on last year's double promotion.