Former Baby Bok to make his mark in England
INTERVIEW: Northampton Saints’ new signing Shaun Adendorff would like to leave a legacy at Franklin’s Gardens when he arrives this season.
The South African-born back-row is coming to the Premiership from French second division side Aurillac and is desperate to make his mark.
Adendorff, 28, has felt both the highs and the lows of professional rugby throughout his career so far, starring for South Africa Under-20s when they won the Junior World Championship in 2012.
But after two impressive years in an Aurillac jersey, Adendorff has been given a new lease of life by the prospect of a dream switch to Northampton and is eager to show what he can do wearing Black, Green and Gold.
“It’s any young player’s dream to win a Junior World Cup and it’s definitely a big highlight of my career so far,” said Adendorff.
“My career was definitely going uphill there but then certain circumstances and certain people’s opinions didn’t go my way, but that’s rugby and that’s life. It doesn’t always go your way, and I’ve definitely had to fight my whole career to get where I am now.
“I want my kids to be able to talk about me like that and I have to do as much as I can.
“No one wants to say ‘my dad was just a rugby player’ and not be able to mention anything else about him.
“I want to do as much as I can for Saints so my kids will say, ‘wow, my dad was an amazing rugby player’ and they will follow in my footsteps.”
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The Durban-born No.8, who featured for South Africa’s sevens team in 2014 and 2015, had stints with the Vodacom Bulls in Super Rugby and Currie Cup side Blue Bulls before heading to play for Aurillac two years ago.
He has since become a force to be reckoned with in France, and is hoping to add some ballast to Northampton’s back row.
He said: “When I entered the professional setup in South Africa, I went from playing No.8 for many years at school to going to the Bulls, where bigger was better.
“I had to change my game, I played at six and I did really well – but then the rest of my career in South Africa, I was just labelled as a fetcher,”
He was even nominated for the Junior World Player of the Year prize during that tournament, sitting on a shortlist alongside JJ Hanrahan and Jan Serfontein, but then found playing opportunities in South Africa difficult to come by.
“When I went to France, I said ‘this is my time to change who I am’. I wanted to go back to playing eight, where I feel very comfortable.
“In PRO D2 and with the way the French people play, I felt I would be better suited at eight and it would help my career much more.
“I went back to eight and adapted very quickly. Whereas in South Africa I was more of a defensive player, in France I’ve taken my defensive game and added a whole new range of attacking to it.
“I’ve changed the way I play, I’m a different player to what I was in South Africa and I’m also in a different weight class, as most players are when they move to France!
“Now I’m one of the best-attacking players in PRO D2.”
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Saints supporters love a grafter in the No.8 jersey – club captain Teimana Harrison has embodied that spirit in recent seasons with his ‘never say die’ attitude.
But Adendorff believes he also fits that mould and is confident he has the right attitude to succeed in English rugby.
“My dad comes from a boxing background, fighting his whole life,” Adendorff said. “In his weight division, he was always one of the smallest.
“He would always get knocks and he would always say he’d never be the best fighter, but he would be the most mentally strong fighter, always fighting until the end, until it was done. That’s what got him through his career in boxing.
“Me and my brother were so good at rugby and he was a rugby coach as well, so he’s put that mentality into our rugby. You can’t beat a guy who is not willing to stay down.
“I’m so grateful for the chance I got in France with Aurillac but you’ve always got to be motivated to play first-class rugby and that was always my ambition.
“I feel like with my skillset and the type of player I am, I’m better suited to a first-class setup, like the one I’m coming to in Northampton. I would do even better with a more professional setup and more skilful players, more physical players at my side.
“That’s not taking anything away from people playing in PRO D2, they’re just as tough and just as skilful, but I feel I can do a lot better in a league like the Premiership, where the game is faster and there are a lot more players who can complement my skillset.”