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'Nugget' tactic mined by Sale on recent visit by Springboks bosses

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

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It was quite the bye-week last week for Alex Sanderson and his fellow Sale coaches. The Sharks management began it with a jolly in Barcelona at the behest of their club owners and it ended last Friday by welcoming the Springboks boss Jacques Nienaber and some of his assistants to Carrington for a barbecue, some beers and a catch-up with the South African players based in Manchester. 


The Springboks’ brains trust has originally hoped to collectively meet up with their Gallagher Premiership-based players in London but one club objected and with that plan scuppered, what took place instead was Nienaber, Felix Jones and Andy Edwards dropping by to meet Sanderson and co at the Sale training centre ahead of the upcoming league game versus Newcastle and the European quarter-final away at Racing.  

It sounded like a meeting of minds. There was plenty of information sharing and it all culminated in Sale boss Sanderson receiving an invite to fly south and spend time with the Springboks coaches in their backyard. Asked by RugbyPass how the afternoon in Manchester unfolded, the director of rugby said: “Good. Talked about all our lads, had a beer with them. Talked a little bit about Racing because the Munster coaches played there. 

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“Got some feedback – they watched the game against Bristol, and then a bit of tactics, a bit of sharing, so I have had the invite to go back out there next year and I think I will. I think I will go out when the sun starts shining back out there in South Africa in December or January.”

Tell us more, what could the coaches of a southern hemisphere Test team help an English club coach out with? “One of the things we talked about, they had watched that dire game against Bristol at home and the Bristol tactics were pretty smart against a Sale team that loves the physical. 


“They [the Springboks] do too. It’s got a good set-piece, which we have when we are on form. Bristol took all that away from us and so we lost our energy for it, lost our zest and got dragged into what was a really boring game because there was no fight, no real competitive edge on the gain line which we could get our teeth stuck into which we thrive off. So I said look, ‘What’s your tactics on this?’


They have a similar situation against Australia consistently. Rarely win and Australia are a team that takes the set-piece away by sacking and doing this and doing that without coming to the fight and then 60 minutes into a game South Africa have got to try and chase the game a little and they end up getting a little like Australia and that is where they come unstuck. 

“We talked about little things like that, tactically how you could get around it and scoreboard pressure is one of them. If you can get down there and farm a penalty or two and get a couple of kicks on the board, then they have to come to the fight. That was one of the things and it was a nugget because I’m sure we are going to get it again, if not this season.”

Asked how the visit of the Springboks bosses to Sale came about, Sanderson explained: “They came over from South Africa and wanted to do a day on a Sunday in London, a training-free day for every Premiership club and I thought that is a good compromise surely. Everyone can go down there on a Sunday, have your meeting and come back on the Monday.

“I thought that was a great compromise but one club reneged on it, one club which I think was pretty poor considering they had planned it around the games to be on the right day. So I rang them up, had a chat and we started to share and they said we’ll come and see you as they knew we were open to it. 


“They got the plane across. They also went to Sarries and they also spent some time in Ireland (and France). So it’s a great trip for them as well, they ended up seeing a few of the clubs and a lot of the lads they would have seen anyway. Our lads loved it, our lads enjoyed it and it was a really important thing to share. 

“Obviously I share with (Saracens boss) Mark McCall because we are mates but there is very little else that is shared in the Premiership and yet the best organisations which are centrally funded, their coaches are made to share, they are made to coalesce and talk about tactics and everything else.”


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