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'Alex knows how South Africans think, what makes them tick... it is a brilliant move from Sale'

By Chris Jones
Alex Sanderson /Getty Images

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Former Saracens boss Brendan Venter believes Alex Sanderson, who is set to be named Sale Sharks’ new director of rugby, is a “brilliant” choice and uniquely equipped to get the best out of the club’s 11 strong contingent of South African players.


It is understood an announcement about Sanderson’s appointment – as revealed by RugbyPass – is imminent with the former England flanker, who was forced to stop playing by a back injury, re-joining his former club having been viewed as a natural successor to Steve Diamond, who quit the role last month for family reasons.

Sanderson, currently Saracens forwards coach, was one year into his coaching role at Saracens when Venter arrived as director of rugby in 2009 and put in place the foundations that turned the North London club into the most powerful outfit in European club rugby. Besides producing a host of international players, Saracens have also developed a group of high profile coaches in top positions that now includes Sanderson.

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JP Doyle on THAT ProD2 ref incident:
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JP Doyle on THAT ProD2 ref incident:

Venter is delighted to see Sanderson move into a high-profile role and told RugbyPass: “If you want to know how to act with dignity as a human being then it is the way Alex carries himself at Saracens. When he leaves Saracens it will be with the blessing of every person there because they want the very best for him going forward. What kind of person can say that they are leaving an organisation and everyone is supporting him because he is going to realise the potential we all know he has.

“He treats people well and will be very successful at Sale and will get on well with their South African players. They have such a big contingent and Sale have recruited a very good person in Alex as he knows how South Africans think. We have worked together for a long time, including after I left and we have stayed friends. Alex knows how South Africans think, how they function and what makes them tick and that is why it is a brilliant move from Sale’s point of view.”

Venter, who is a GP in the Western Cape helping with South Africa’s fight against COVID-19, believes the atmosphere created at Saracens has been crucial in enabling so many players to move into key coaching roles in the sport.

He added: “When I look at it, the players who have gone onto coach realised what treating people in a certain way can achieve. When John Smit (former South African World Cup-winning captain) left Saracens he said what fascinated him what the environment at the club which is more than one person.


“It enables coaches to get the best out of people and this is not only in rugby. I get a lot of pleasure hearing about the success of former Saracens players in roles in the City of London because of the things they learned at Saracens. I get as much pleasure as hearing that as when Guzzy (Paul Gustard) got the Harlequins job or Steve (Borthwick) the job at Leicester.

“It is about being part of something and understanding there is a different way of doing things. It means all those Thursday afternoon personal development sessions that guys did after training when they were tired were worthwhile and good people make good rugby players.”

The Saracens coaching factor has produced:

Alex Sanderson – set to become Sale director of rugby

Andy Farrell – former England coach and Ireland head coach


Steve Borthwick – former England forwards and Leicester head coach

Paul Gustard – former England defence coach and Harlequins head of rugby

Kelly Brown – Glasgow Warriors assistant coach

Petrus du Plessis – Australia scrum coach

Mouritz Botha – former Germany assistant coach now at Ampthill

Glen Jackson – former test referee and Fiji assistant coach

Simon Raiwalui- former Wallabies assistant coach now Fiji high performance manager


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