Listening to the commentary on matches in leagues across the world, one is bound to hear the utterances of Afrikaans names. From the English Premiership, through the Pro14 to the Top14, South African rugby players are hot property and numerous.
Over the last twenty years, approximately, the combination of the professional era and the weak South African Rand has lured players north, away from the tip of Africa and into the wealthy European systems. At present, there are roughly 350 South African professional rugby players plying their trade in foreign leagues.
In a recent podcast interview, Sale Sharks’ new Director of Rugby, Alex Sanderson, spoke about the elements which render South African rugby players such an asset in a team.
“Well most of them, with the exception of Faf [de Klerk] are massive, which helps,” he said.
“They are very polite, which is always nice. They are easily coachable. You can push them in ways that you can push people who have been brought in the public schools or academy systems in this country, so the transition of them coming to South Africa from England, it’s not like you have to adapt your coaching methodology.
“They fit in to what you are used to yourself as a coach or as a player in this country, whereas maybe some nationalities because of the cultural divide and their upbringing; it’s not the same fit.”
Sanderson is responsible for overseeing the biggest South African contingent in the Premiership, with the likes of the du Preez brothers, Akker van der Merwe, Faf de Klerk, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Lood de Jager.
“In relative terms they are seemingly less money orientated. Obviously, money talks and the Pound is strong against the Rand.
“They are quite spiritual, or at least religious. They already understand the principle of buying into a higher purpose. Something that transcends a workplace and an accolade.
“And if you can get a big guy who’s motivated with a sense of higher purpose, then you’ve got a bit of a warrior there haven’t you?”