The 'wickedly sharp' first impression made by new Sale signings
Cowan-Dickie was signed earlier this month after his deal to join Montpellier fell through, van Rhyn was snapped up in April on a three-year deal from the Stormers while Bedlow has opted to rejoin the Sharks, whom he left for Bristol in 2017.
All three are now with the Gallagher Premiership finalists as they negotiate the opening weeks of pre-season ahead of the 2023/24 campaign and they will eventually be joined post-Rugby World Cup by Agustin Creevy, the veteran Argentina hooker who took up an offer to switch to the Sharks following the collapse of London Irish.
It won’t be until October 13, quarter-finals weekend at the World Cup in France, when Sale get their new Premiership season going with a home fixture versus Northampton. In the meantime, they are putting together their off-season building blocks and Sanderson has now passed verdict on how his newcomers have so far settled in at Carrington.
“Really well for the characters they are,” he told Sale Sharks TV about starting to work with Cowan-Dickie, van Rhyn and Bedlow. “We recruit character. Like, it’s character that wins you games like we just lost (to Saracens in the final).
“That is what I am alluding to here. Because it wasn’t talent. They are talented but we are talented. There was something there that we have a space to step into in terms of character, us as a group but then you can artificially bring those changes in by bringing fresh blood of which these boys are. So like as characters, they are mega.
“Luke, I don’t know, I just don’t know him well enough to peg him and I’m not sure there is not a box for Luke Cowan-Dickie. Ernst van Rhyn is one of the smiliest, happiest, he is like a competition winner. I felt like we won the competition getting him and he has turned up with his missus and he doesn’t see the rain clouds, does he?
“Like, he is not even bothered. The first day he came in it was thunder and lightning and he was like, ‘How good is Manchester!’ So there is a reciprocal enthusiasm between them and us that makes it feel like it was the right decision both parts.”
With Akker van der Merwe having moved home to South Africa for family reasons and Ewan Ashman switching to club rugby in Scotland, Sale lost both starting hooker and replacement from the team that played in the late May Premiership final loss to Saracens at Twickenham.
The recruitment of Cowan-Dickie was one solution to filling that large void, but Sale also went and signed veteran Argentina Creevy, who has recently been away on Rugby Championship duty with the Pumas in the hope of securing selection for the World Cup.
“Experience is always crucial but it is about the squad-wide balance,” continued Sanderson when asked about his move for the 38-year-old Creevy. “Akker moving on for the right reasons for his family, there is a big void in a crucial position. Luke gives us that but Gus probably more so. 99 caps is he on now?
“And then with back three that we have got, they are a bit young. They’re dead good but they’re dead young so we wanted someone who could come in and not just add in terms of his skill set because Sam can, he is wickedly sharp, everyone knows that, you have seen him.
“But add in terms of being a decent pro and being a dad and the oldest brother of 11 siblings. That’s clout. We like brothers here, as you know. We have got one more brother in Sam and then we have got someone who knows what it is to be a big brother to many.”
Join free and tell us what you really think!Sign up for free