The 27-year-old former Bulls lock suffered the injury 21 minutes into South Africa’s World Cup final triumph over England in Yokohama on November 2 and the initial medical verdict was a six-month recovery period after surgery in Cape Town to repair the damage that left him in agony as he was helped from the pitch in the final.
Sale boss Steve Diamond did not expect to be able to pick the signing he specifically chose to build his pack around until around April, but he has told RugbyPass that de Jager will be arriving at the Premiership club on January 10 having make incredible progress with his rehabilitation programme.
The arrival of 6ft 9in de Jager will coincide with the return to fitness of England flanker Mark Wilson, who has been battling back from a knee injury sustained in the World Cup having joined Sale on loan from relegated Newcastle Falcons in the summer. He underwent surgery to repair the damage and has yet to appear for his new club.
Diamond, whose team are in seventh place heading into Friday night’s home game with eighth-placed Harlequins, said: “Lood will arrive in the country on January 10 and will be available to play around January 25 when we travel to Exeter and Mark Wilson will also be ready by then. So, we have one more Premiership round of games to go without them and then we will be close to full strength.”
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With Sale out of contention for a Heineken European Cup quarter-final place, Diamond is focusing his attention on a top-four finish to qualify for the Premiership play-offs and the imminent availability of de Jager and Wilson is a massive boost.
With Josh Beaumont ruled out for the season by knee reconstruction surgery, Sale have been short of ball-carrying and lineout options and have pressed the du Preez twins, Jean-Luc and Dan, into service in the second row in recent weeks rather than using them in the back row.
“We have had to convert the du Preez boys into second rows alongside Bryn Evans and a combination of Lood and one of the du Preezs could be very good – we could handle that. If we can win against Harlequins then we will be around the top four before the two weeks of Europe which we will go English. I can afford to rest Faf de Klerk and Tom Curry in the coming weeks and then de Jager and Wilson are with us.”
De Jager’s arrival will complete Sale’s South African recruitment drive which has seen Akker van der Merwe, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Coenie Oosthuizen and the du Preez brothers Daniel, Robert and Jean-Luc join de Klerk in Manchester.
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