New man Ernst van Rhyn has been ‘overwhelmed’ by his welcome to Manchester and to Sale Sharks – and he says he couldn’t have scripted his switch from the Stormers any better.
The versatile 25-year-old left Cape Town in the summer to sign a three-year deal with Sale and after overcoming a knee injury picked up in his last Stormers game, has spent the last three weeks getting stuck into pre-season training and learning a few new names.
Ernst – or Ernie as he’s become known – played alongside new Sharks teammate Cobus Wiese for both the Stormers and the Junior Springboks, and he says having a familiar face in the changing room has helped the transition.
He said: “The move has been great. I was saying to my wife that I don’t think we could have scripted it any better. Everyone told us that the northern people were more friendly and that’s so true. We’ve been overwhelmed with how welcoming everyone has been in the city.
“If you need help with a tram or something, they’re so friendly. In SA people just drive everywhere you want to go, so we’re not used to catching a tram or a bus. It’s helped us to get to know the city and get our bearings.
“At the club it’s been exactly the same. Everyone has welcomed us and offered to help us with anything we need. We are really happy and enjoying it. It’s great to finally be here.
“My wife, Bianca, couldn’t wait to come. She had never been to England before and she’s absolutely loving it. She loves Altrincham, where we’re living, and she’s a fully-fledged native now.
“We’re enjoying furnishing our new house – we don’t always agree but that’s more her department.
“Having some familiar faces and some Africaans voices has helped. When we were thinking about the move it was a big consideration. Cobus has helped us settle in and it’s been great to see him and his wife, but it’s not just the South African lads – everyone has been so welcoming.”
Ernst clearly has made an impression on his first three weeks at the club, with Alex Sanderson praising his positive attitude, despite the rainy welcome from the Manchester weather.
And the 6’3” self-described ‘workhorse’, who has captained both the junior Springboks and the Stormers, says that is part of his personality.
He said: “I tend to get along with people quite well. We just feel really grateful for this opportunity and for the way we’ve been accepted. That’s why I’m happy – we’re excited to be here.
“That’s one of my strong points. I always try and bring a smile and sometimes that might mean not saying what I really feel because I want to keep other people happy and bring that positive energy.
“I think it’s a part of being a captain. It’s something that comes naturally to me and I enjoy it. Responsibility of leading a team brings out the best in me and I feel I have learned a lot from the leaders I’ve played with.
“You can always learn though and I’m looking forward to learning and developing with the players here.
“I think I would say I’m a workhorse. I don’t mind doing the dirty work. I’m a big team man and I’ll do anything for the team. I like to be direct and I like to bring physicality but mostly I just want to work hard all over the field and help the team.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a flashy player and the fans shouldn’t expect too many tries but I’ll play my part.”
The deal to sign Ernst was wrapped up before the end of the season, meaning he had plenty of time to watch his new side in action as Alex Sanderson’s men reached the Premiership final.
He added: “The Premiership is one of, if not the, top league in the world for quality and in terms of how competitive it is.
“Once I knew I was coming, I was keeping tabs on the club. I watched the semi-final at home with my family and everyone was cheering and getting excited.
“The final was on the same day as a URC game so I was keeping up to date on my phone. Watching that game it looked like a group of players enjoying what they were doing.
“I could see the players are part of something bigger. That’s really important for me and Bianca. You get a feeling here that it’s not just about rugby and winning – it’s more than that.
“Sale Sharks have been on the up for a few years and got really close last year and I want to do whatever I can to help the team go one step further in the years to come.
“Who knows how far we can go but I’ll pour all my energy into trying to create something that lasts.”
Ernst is looking forward to running out at the Salford Stadium as a Sharks player when the new season kicks off. But whenever his debut comes, it won’t be the first time he has played at the stadium.
He added: “I played one game for the Junior Boks at the stadium during the u20s World Cup. The game was against Argentina, and I remember we lost, and I got a yellow card. So, I’m looking forward to making some better memories in a Sharks shirt.”