Jono Ross is in a mischievous mood. Faf de Klerk’s hair was a much talked about commodity around the globe during the World Cup and his fellow South African isn’t slow in lifting the lid on what it is really like sharing a dressing room with his pal on a daily basis at Sale.
“I said this to someone the other day, he has probably got more hair products than my wife does,” quipped Ross to RugbyPass with a smile.
“He is washing his hair and conditioning it three times a day with highlights and what not. He takes a lot of care. A lot of shampoo, a lot of conditioner in the dressing room. Blow drying, in the mirror, always busy with his hair.
“To be fair to him, he might have those sort of flash things but he is a real down to earth guy. He is a hard-working, hard as nails person and I have a lot of time for him.
“We spend a lot of time together and he is a great, great person before the rugby and all of that. He has had a tough career. Things haven’t just been handed to him, he has had to work really hard to get to where he is. He deserves credit and I have a lot of respect for him.”
(Continue reading below…)
A lot of respect, too, for so many more of the World Cup-winning Springboks squad. Ross only got in the door at home in Manchester at 3am on the Saturday morning of the final due to travelling back from Sale’s defeat at Bristol and the early kick-off in Yokohama made for a lack of sufficient shut-eye.
The victory eventually meant he wasn’t put out in the slightest. Of course, there was sympathy for the vanquished Tom Curry, his club colleague whom he described as being one of the best players of the tournament. But to see friends such as Handre Pollard and Vincent Koch crowned champions, that was priceless.
All the more so what success can potentially mean for Ross’ native South Africa. “It’s huge for the country, it’s a rugby-mad place. It’s a country politically, from a crime perspective, that has been in a very bad place.
?? South Africa ??
— SuperSport ?? (@SuperSportTV) November 3, 2019
“I speak to my parents and it is a lot of big negative feeling around the country due to those problems and only something like that really unites us as a nation. In 2007 with the Rugby World Cup, in 2010 with the Football World Cup there, the nation just comes together and sort of forgets about all the past and the problems that we are facing.
“It gets together due to a team that really inspires our country and the amount of everyday people loving the fact that South Africa has won, it really puts South Africa in a good place hopefully for a month or so so. It really is inspirational. Siya Kolisi, his story and where he has come from to be the first black captain, was huge. It is really big for South Africa and I’m really happy for them.”
Nearly 6,000 miles separate Ross from Johannesburg and his current home in Manchester and while he is well used to living abroad having spent time at Saracens and Stade Francais before pitching up at Sale in 2017, being away from family remains a drawback, particularly when he himself mentions the crime rate that exists in South Africa.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 5, 2019
“I don’t think you can worry about that stuff. Obviously, it can happen, but it can happen anywhere. I can walk outside and get hit by a bus. I’m not worried about that, but I am sad to live away from my parents and my family and my wife’s family. That is tough.
“We enjoy the lifestyle we have in South Africa. My wife is from Zimbabwe, so we miss that but in terms of things like that [parents and crime rates], you can’t worry about that. It would be great to have family, have weather, have the things that we want, but we really enjoy Manchester and that is the process we are in at the moment.
“Manchester is a fantastic place. It is small but there is so much going on. It is not like London where you can get lost because it is so big. It is small so the boys can hang out and there is enough to do so that you are never bored.
— Sale Sharks? (@SaleSharksRugby) November 9, 2019
“It’s a great place, a great club. The club is a really humble place to come to and South Africans seem to fit in well. All the guys here enjoy it and we get on well with all the English guys. It is important when foreigners come in that they buy into a culture, not try and make it what you had in the past but buy into what it is. That is going really well.
“Living in the (winter) darkness is as English as it gets and we get out when it is raining hard. In South Africa when it is raining you close the doors and snuggle under a blanket and carry on whereas now you go walking when it is snowing, raining, sunshine, whatever it is.
“We try and involve ourselves in some of the Manchester food culture, we get out and experience Manchester as best we can, we enjoy going to watch Man United play, we try our best to interact with as many English people as we can. It is important to take in the culture, the English culture, and we try our best to immerse ourselves in Manchester.”
Fascinating insight on how Steve Diamond approaches Premiership Rugby life in Manchester with Sale https://t.co/ILp1nctTKh
— liam heagney (@heagneyl) September 14, 2019
London was Ross’ first port of call when he left home in 2012, joining Saracens for a season where he was restricted to a mere two LV= Cup appearances before returning to the Bulls. His old club are now in the eye of a storm following last Tuesday’s salary cap punishments handed down by Premiership Rugby, but he doesn’t feel it is a topic he can publicly discuss.
“I don’t really think it is my place to comment. I don’t really know what is going on so I don’t think it is my place to have anything to say about that. I am sure whatever process will go ahead and the outcome will be the outcome. As a player, I don’t worry about that. I just want to play well and make sure our team plays well.
“As a player, the salary cap is not our problem. We focus on playing on the field and the outer stuff that is going on has nothing to do with us. We just have to keep our head down and keep playing. Of course, it was (a talking point). Guys were shocked about it but the players, it was probably chatted about for five minutes and then we carried on training. It is not really our area. It is difficult to discuss.”
View this post on Instagram
The salary cap is something frequently mentioned in connection with Sale. For years they took part in the Premiership having spent far less on wages than they were permitted to.
Now, after finally entering a campaign having spent the full £7million allowed, there is an expectation on them to be more consistently competitive on a weekly basis, not only in the league but finally having a better crack at the Champions Cup where just two of 18 matches have been won in their last three participations.
Despite the largesse of a squad heavily bolstered by a South African influx, Ross, four games into a league season where they have already been beaten twice ahead of next Saturday’s European trip to Glasgow, still feels it might be awkward to successfully challenge on both fronts.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 5, 2019
“It is going to be difficult (to do both). We have improved this year but we are under no illusions about the quality of the teams we have in our group (La Rochelle and Exeter complete the line-up). It is a tough competition.
“There is a different expectation (in the league) from what we have had in the past. We are expected to win games. There is expectation but you can’t let that weigh down on us. We will continue to have a clear process of thought, stick to what we train and our game plan. Hopefully, the rest will take of itself.
“We know we need to improve, we know we are not the finished article. But we will be competitive and that is what we strive to do. There is expectation but the players just need to be focused on improving every day, every week and if we do that we will be in a good place.
View this post on Instagram
I’m ready… Are you? Pre order your 2019/20Sale Sharks home kit today at http://www.salesharks.com and make sure you are set for the new season! #SharksFamily |@ukfast Please tag the following in the image – @_place2be , @ukfast, @secarma, @togethermoney_ @morson @premrugby @salesharks
“It would be massive for the club (to be successful). As players you remember those moments when you win things more than anything. There is lots to remember but you are ultimately judged by what you won and if we could win something it would be huge and a very proud moment.
“It [the 2006 Premiership title] gets spoken about a lot, the big French influence with (Sebastien) Chabal, Sebastien Bruno and these guys. It is spoken about a lot and the club dream of these moments. Hopefully, at some point in the future, we can achieve that.”
WATCH: The RugbyPass Rugby Explorer series pays a visit to South Africa
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.