‘A big difference’: Sale Sharks skipper Jono Ross buoyed by South African revolution

If Jono Ross’s analysis of Akker van der Merwe as ‘Schalk Brits with added physicality’ turns out to be accurate Sale Sharks could be going places next season.

The club announced late in February two major signings as Springboks Van der Merwe and Rob du Preez signed contracts at the AJ Bell and will join after the current Super Rugby season.

Sale fans know Du Preez well of course, with the robust fly-half scoring 81 points in nine games for the club in a loan spell this season.

Meanwhile, Van der Merwe, or ‘The Raging Warthog’ as he’s known at home, is a hooker who has three Springbok caps and a player approved of by fellow South African Ross.

“All the fans at the club know a lot about Rob (du Preez), he was superb for us before,” commented Sale skipper Ross, who was speaking at a Gallagher ‘Train with your Heroes’ session at Lymm RFC after their U15s side won a nationwide competition launched by Gallagher.

“He made a big difference for us, he’s a very confident guy and gave us direction and just fitted in really well.

“For me the biggest thing is he’s a good person and he really cared – anyone can come over on a three-month stint and see it as a bit of money-making but he really bought into the club and really cared about whether he lost or won.

“And then Akker is another really good player, he’s a really dynamic hooker. He’s got a bit of Schalk Brits and then a lot of physicality about him as well!

“Obviously we’ve got Rob Webber and Curtis Langdon as well so he’s an addition to that.

“Hopefully those signings will come and fit into the culture and the way we do things and add to what we want to achieve as a squad here.”

With the news that hooker Webber has also extended his contract until the end of the 2020-21 season it appears that something is building in the North West.

Sale suffered a heavy 67-17 defeat to Northampton two weeks ago but responded with that astonishing 24-18 win at Wasps the following Saturday and are up to eighth, seven points off the play-offs and now boosted by news of two major signings.

Ross continued: “The Wasps game gave us maybe the best feeling of the season after the week before (losing at Northampton) because we were definitely disappointed with that one.

“To turn it around in a week and go to the Ricoh, whether they’re missing players or we’re missing players it was a brilliant result and the first time Sale have won there. It’s a massive deal for us and we’re really proud of that.

“We know there’s still a long way to go in this competition. A lot of people have talked about how tight this competition is and you can’t write a club like Newcastle off even though they are bottom, they could still win a few games. So we were happy with the win over Wasps.” 

Ross was speaking at a Gallagher ‘Train with your Heroes’ session at Lymm RFC after their U15s side won a nationwide competition launched by Gallagher, a passionate community insurance broker and proud title partner of Premiership Rugby. Lymm won by describing how their team embodies the spirit of rugby, both on and off the pitch, and helps grow the game locally.

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