Steve Diamond believes World Cup-winning lock Lood de Jager is going to become an even bigger threat to Gallagher Premiership opponents, beginning with Bristol at the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday at the start of a season-defining run of fixtures for Sale.

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Springboks giant de Jager, who stands at 6ft 9ins, came off the replacements bench to shore up the Sale lineout when they registered a vital 20-11 win over Wasps on Tuesday to secure third place.

Now they are preparing for four matches in 15 days, starting against second-place Bristol and following up with games versus Leicester, Saracens and Bath. 

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De Jager’s commitment to the cause has impressed Diamond who expects Bristol to put key players like Fijian powerhouse Semi Radradra on the bench on Saturday, making it vital for his team to make a fast start to negate the game-changing ability of the visitors’ replacements.

The Sale director of rugby said: “On our day off yesterday (Wednesday), Lood was still here on his own looking at lineout formations at our training facility at Carrington – he is an absolute professional in what he does. We have not seen anything of him yet. He has played a couple of games and came on against Wasps and solidified us with 20 minutes to go. He has been a great asset, a very knowledgeable guy.

“We met this morning (Thursday) at 6.30am and had a good chat about selection as coaches and we know the Bristol bench will be massively strong. To an extent, you have to do a job first half because Bristol are one of the teams in the competition who can run you ragged in 40 minutes and score 20 points.

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“The mental side goes hand in glove with the physical side and if you have a shocker then you can blame it on the mental. I don’t know why we didn’t turn up at Quins and then the following week we turned up.

“If we played in the first half at Quins as we did against Exeter we probably would have done what Worcester did to them Wednesday night. Everyone is getting used to these short turnarounds and it is those who manage the selections best will come through it. If we get the discipline and set-piece sorted out we have a chance to beat anyone – home and away.”

Cobus Wiese, who will offer another lock option, has finally arrived from South Africa and is going through a quarantine period while also being regularly tested for Covid-19. “He is in isolation for two weeks,” explained Diamond. “He has been tested negatively one and will be tested again today and next Monday and Thursday. Then he can come out and join us. He will be available for a midweek game in two weeks.”

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