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Why South Africans make such good rugby players

By Ian Cameron

Trending on RugbyPass

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South African rugby players have become a staple of European squads over the course of the last two decades. There’s probably but a handful of professional teams across the continent who can’t boast at least one or two South Africans on their books; be they Springboks, project players or hardened journeymen.


Currently, there are at least 45 South Africans across the 12 twelves teams of the Gallagher Premiership, with Sale Sharks alone accounting for 11 of their number.

Now new Sale Sharks Director of Rugby, Alex Sanderson, who has worked with many South Africans as forwards coach at Saracens, has given a glimpse as to why they make such good rugby players.

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Alex Sanderson talks to Jim Hamilton on RugbyPass All Access:
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Alex Sanderson talks to Jim Hamilton on RugbyPass All Access:

Speaking on the RugbyPass ‘All Access’ podcast with Jim Hamilton, Sanderson has explained what makes Saffa stand apart from the average English player, and it’s not just size.

“Well most of them, with the exception of Faf [de Klerk] are massive, which helps,” said Sanderson, who will be coaching a gaggle of ex-Springboks in his new role, including the likes of the Du Preez brothers, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Lood de Jager, Akker van der Merwe and Coenie Oosthuizen.

“They are very polite, which is always nice. They are easily coachable. You can push them in ways that you can push people who have been brought in the public schools or academy systems in this country, so the transition of them coming to South Africa from England, it’s not like you have to adapt your coaching methodology.

“They fit in to what you are used to yourself as a coach or as a player in this country, whereas maybe some nationalities because of the cultural divide and their upbringing; it’s not the same fit.


“In relative terms they are seemingly less money orientated. Obviously, money talks and the Pound is strong against the Rand.

“They are quite spiritual, or at least religious. They already understand the principle of buying into a higher purpose. Something that transcends a workplace and an accolade.

“And if you can get a big guy who’s motivated with a sense of higher purpose, then you’ve got a bit of a warrior there haven’t you.”




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