Alex Sanderson has backed Faf de Klerk to come back stronger and more motivated from his injury setback after the influential World Cup-winning scrum-half was ruled out until 2022.
Springbok Faf underwent surgery on a hip flexor injury this week and he’ll now begin his rehab – and the Sharks Director of Rugby is hoping to have the ‘Golden Unicorn’ back in around four months.
Speaking to the media this week ahead of Sharks’ trip to table topping Leicester Tigers, Alex also confirmed he wasn’t planning to bring in a short-term replacement – but added that that could change if Raffi Quirke is involved with England in the Six Nations in the new year.
Alex said: “Faf has seen the very best person when it comes to these injuries. There was no choice, it needed an operation. We’re hoping it might be less than five months – maybe around four months, but we’ll see. I’m not happy about it but what can you do. We have to stay cheerful.
“Faf is a very positive lad. He’s brought his girlfriend back over from South Africa to look after him which is massive for him personally. If anyone is going to come back from an injury like this as strong and as motivated, then it’s him.
“Our S+C (strength and conditioning) guys are very experienced, and they’ll get the best advice too. Marland Yarde has had the same surgery and he’s now playing as well as he ever has. Injuries are part of the game.
“We’ve got decent cover when Cliffy comes back. Gus Warr has been looking really good in training too. And we’ve got a young lad called Nye Thomas, he’s 18 years old and he could be another Raffi – with the ball in hand he’s electric and if he gets a bit of space, he’ll surprise a few people. I’m not too sure about his game management yet but you only get that from experience.
“Over the Autumn Internationals we’ve got two games in the Premiership Cup, so we want to give these lads a chance anyway. We’re not looking at any short term solutions at the moment. I’ve got huge faith in the lads we’ve got. It might be blind faith because they’re unproven at the top level. Right now, they need my backing and they’ve got it.”
Sharks will face a Leicester side this weekend who have won five out of five at the start of the 2021/22 Premiership Rugby season.
And Alex pinpointed the work of the Tigers’ pack as a big factor behind their early season form.
He said: “Leicester, statistically speaking, kick the most and have pretty much the highest territory. So they can squeeze teams and play territory and that’s the main factor that dictates win/loss ratio in test match rugby. They’ve got that down to a tee.
“Steve Borthwick is highly analytical and he plays percentages. On the back of that territory game, they’ve got a power game and the best maul in the league. They’ve scored every game from it. And that features very highly in their attacking play.”
“So we have to be able to negate that. They’ve got massive players like Genge, Martin, Wiese. We have to get parity and field position and disrupt their big ball carriers. If we don’t do all of that. We’ll fall short.”
Alex was asked how being a Director of Rugby compares to his former role as a coach at Saracens – and he said the extra pressure drives him to improve his own performance every day.
He added: “The nature of the job is that there are more aspects to get involved in, but I’m loving the job. I’m loving the workload, I’m loving spending time with the lads, and I’m loving having more influence. Sometimes my little boy asks me when I’m going to take a day off – he’s probably heard me say it. But we all have to live it. There’s no way around it.”