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'I know why they're leaving and can't disagree with their motives'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Alex Sanderson has farewelled Springboks duo Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager ahead of their final appearance for Sale this Saturday in the Gallagher Premiership. With the reduced salary cap biting in England, the South African pair are both off to Japan next season to cash in on their market value and to prepare in the Far East with a view to starring in France when they defend the World Cup in 2023.

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Both were Sale signings that were brought to Manchester by Steve Diamond, de Klerk debuting in September 2017 and de Jager in March 2020 after he recovered from a World Cup final injury. It was January 2021 when Sanderson arrived at Sale to succeed Diamond as director of rugby and with their exits confirmed on April 5, he will now see them leave the club following this Saturday’s home clash with Bristol. 

It’s an emotional parting of the ways for Sanderson following the solid rapport that he built with both South Africans over the past 16 months. Asked by RugbyPass to outline his feelings as the days count down to the last de Klerk and de Jager match with Sale, Sanderson explained: “A lot of what you see with Faf is what you get. 

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“The energy, the hair, the unpredictability. It is all there on display but that is not all of him. There is a hidden depth to Faf which you see through this competitiveness, through his physicality and that flamboyance that you see never transfers into arrogance or complacency. He is a very humble person who I have got a lot of time for. He is not all fluff, there is a good bit of ferocity about him which I respect and admire.

“Lood, much of what you see is what you get. He is a character that you would assume to be aligned with the size of the man that he is, he is a leader. He is a leader of men and he is honest and he is a family man and he plays like that, he plays with his heart on his sleeve, upfront and in the trenches. 

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“These are the two people I get on with very well. You’d think two people are leaving the club within their original contractual times that they said they would commit to, they could be leaving on bad terms but because of the people they are, they are actually leaving with our blessing. I know why they are leaving and I can’t disagree with their motives for doing so… they were two of our talismans over the course of the season (and a half) without which we wouldn’t have got to two quarter-finals and a semi-final without a shadow of a doubt, wouldn’t have got there. 

“They are sadly leaving but they will leave with all our best wishes. It’s bittersweet the pair of them because they are so difficult to replace but I fully understand why they are going. I can’t really say much more than that, they’re great lads.”

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Aside from his excellent rugby play, de Klerk stood out for his flowing locks. Whose hairstyle will become the talk of Sale when the scrum-half leaves. “Jonny Hill has got some horrible looking mullets,” reckoned Sanderson. 

“The lads are into those at the moment. Who else? Sam James. Tommy Taylor has got beautiful hair, he has, he really has. For someone who has had to shave his hair off this season, Tommy Taylor should be a V05 model.”

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