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Our sponsored player Faf de Klerk: ‘Sharks are building into something great’

He may be small in stature but South African international Faf De Klerk is sure to make a massive impact for Sale Sharks after signing for the Premiership rugby club. The 5ft 7in scrum half, Together’s chosen player for the 2017/18 season, joins the ambitious Premiership team after playing for the Johannesburg-based Golden Lions in the final of Super Rugby – the Southern Hemisphere’s leading league competition. Now the Sharks’ inspired new signing is looking forward to making waves in England. We caught up with Faf for a chat at the club’s Carrington training ground…

Together: Welcome to Manchester. How are you settling in?

Faf: Everybody’s been really welcoming. They’ve all been warning me about the weather because being from South Africa, I’m used to the sun! But, so far, it’s not been as miserable and rainy as they said and the guys have been great; showing me around the city centre, showing me places to stay and helping me to find my feet. I’m really enjoying it so far.

Together: Why did you decide to come to play for Sale Sharks?

Faf: I was in South Africa and I started talking to Jono Ross (South African-born Sale Sharks player) about how he was finding it with the team in England. He told me they were a really great bunch of guys, and he was right. Although I’m only a few weeks in, I feel like I’m at home already.

Together: You had a fantastic season in South Africa, making the final of the Super Rugby championship with the Lions. Tell us about that, and what’s been happening since?

Faf: The final was a great experience for us, because it was the second time in two years we had been there, and I was more prepared for it this time around. We had a red card in the first half so we had to play with 14 guys but came back really well in the second half. The boys gave an exceptional fight but it wasn’t to be. That was on August 6, and the Sale guys were on a training camp in France, so I flew straight out there from South Africa two days later to join them, before heading back to Manchester and then up to Scotland (to play Edinburgh in a pre-season match) where I scored a try. It’s been quite a busy few weeks!

Together: What are the challenges in swapping South African rugby for the English game?

Faf: I think the weather over here will play a part. I’m used to playing in dry weather, at altitude, which means you can kick the ball further. I think South Africans have always thought that rugby in England is a bit slower because of the weather, but that view has changed over the past few years, and you can see from the international results that England have changed their mind-set to play high-intensity rugby. It’s the same at Sale Sharks; the guys are saying they are the fittest they have ever been. They are well prepared and driven.

Together: Sharks director Steve Diamond is looking to build the team’s success this season. What’s he like to work with?

Faf: So far, so good. He’s a real motivator for the team and he’s one of those guys who, when the chips are down, gets the guys together. He gets them going, and makes a few changes if they are needed, to get the team performing well. The first piece of advice he gave me was ‘just go out, enjoy yourself and score tries’ which is what I’m hoping to do every match. The good thing is that everybody is fighting for their position – nobody is going to be handed the jersey, they are going to have to work hard to play.

Together: How would you describe your style of play?

Faf: I’m a bit nippy around the rucks and I try to speed up the game as much as possible. I’m always looking for opportunities to exploit, whether that is me making a break or putting others around me into space, so I think I bring a bit of flair into a game.

Together: What’s your prediction for the Sharks season ahead?

Faf: I think we are building into something great. We are almost starting off as underdogs but the boys have a lot of drive and are working harder and harder, week by week. There are a few of the guys who have had call-ups to the England squad and they are all playing with a lot of confidence, which is great to see on the pitch, and there are guys who have come in from different countries this season, who really want to make an impact on the team. At the moment we are not looking at results, but we are working on our performances every week. We need to score as many points as possible and not leak any tries and, if we do that, we will be in a winning position every week. If the performances are there, the results will look after themselves.

Together announced its partnership with Sale Sharks earlier this year in a sponsorship deal which will run until June 2019.

For more information visit: https://togethermoney.com/news/together-announces-sponsorship-of-sale-sharks/