B&I Lions Tour: Sale boss counts the cost of losing Springboks
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Sale Sharks coach Alex Sanderson fears the worst after admitting that he could lose his Springboks stars until Christmas after they face the British and Irish Lions.
Sanderson has eleven South African players in the Sale squad while Leicester have followed suit in their recruitment and have a key ball carrier in Jasper Wiese, the brother of Sharks lock Cobus.
Sale know that the chance to get one over a fellow countryman fires up their South African contingent and this will ensure an intensely physical battle as the Sharks attempt to cement their place in the top three to ensure an end-of-season playoff place.
With the Springboks taking on the British and Irish Lions in a three-Test series in July once the domestic season in England is over, Sale are likely to lose key players for an extended period as the Rugby Championship is set to follow the completion of the Lions tour.
As a result, Sale may not have their Springboks back until late in the year.
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“We may not see them until Christmas which would be a big blow,” Sanderson said.
“They will go back to South Africa for the Lions series at the end of this season but [the currently injured] Lood de Jager could go back earlier to start his prep with them.”
For now, Sanderson will be looking to Faf de Klerk and his other South Africans to negate the power of Leicester who last weekend fought their way into the European Challenge Cup final against Montpellier.
“Leicester are much improved and their second half against Ulster was something special,” he said ahead of next Friday’s AJ Bell encounter.
“[It’s a] Bang a Bokke competition! These boys always get riled up playing their countrymen and it’s not just Jasper because Leicester have some big ball carriers that go under the radar.
“Physicality is a word we have bandied about a lot this week and getting excited. I’m sure it is no different in their camp. I don’t think Leicester have taken a look at us and said we are going to do that because that is not Steve Borthwick’s style.”
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Sanderson added that he was not asked by the British and Irish Lions management about the fitness of Manu Tuilagi. The England midfielder could be named in the 36-strong squad on Thursday despite not playing since September due to Achilles surgery.
“I would take him but I’m not Warren Gatland. At his best, Manu is one of the best players in the world and he should be playing by the weekend of the Champions Cup final. I say it could be five games he could play – not three – before the end of the season because we have ambitions.”