Newly appointed Sale Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson has spoken of a desire for sustained success with his new team, and the role South African players would play in it, writes ANDRE-PIERRE CRONJE.
Sanderson replaced Steve Diamond as director of rugby for the Manchester-based side earlier this year after the latter stepped down from the position for personal reasons. The move is something of a homecoming for Sanderson as he returns to the club where he started his playing career.
Speaking to ex-Scotland lock Jim Hamilton, Sanderson expressed a desire to be a ‘catalyst’ for Sale’s future success. With a squad roster that includes Rugby World Cup winners Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager as well as England international sensations the Curry twins, Sale do not lack for talent or potential.
The process of achieving success, however, will require instilling in these players a belief in their own ample abilities; something Sanderson expects to take some time.
‘There are no hacks or shortcuts if you want to achieve long-term success; what we are going to build here is going to take some time and we need to first understand who we are – our identity. It’s not just about having the best players, it’s about getting the best out of those best players on a consistent basis.’
Sanderson is no stranger to success, before his move to Sale he was the head coach of Saracens under Director of Rugby, Mike McCall. His experience in a coaching setup that achieved a string of domestic and European titles will serve Sanderson well as he looks to build something similar in his new post.
Asked what the key to sustained success was, Sanderson took a philosophical approach.
‘It’s about going over-and-above in terms of your care for the person not just the player. If you truly care for the person, then that psychological contract is reciprocal. They [players] end up giving more than if it was just a job or a contract, because those things alone don’t get you out of bed in the morning.’
The concept of being part of something bigger than a team or a profession is one which Sanderson feels resonates with South African players. He posits it is why South Africans played such a significant role in the success of Saracens both on and off the field.
‘They [South African players] are very spiritual and religious and so they understand buying into a higher purpose – something that transcends a workplace or an accolade; and if you can get a big guy who’s motivated with a sense of higher purpose then you’ve got a bit of a warrior haven’t you?’
Sanderson, who coaches from the sidelines and refuses to wear a suit, gives off a down-to-earth impression and displayed a good sense of humour is proposing that the other reason South African players have been successful is decidedly less cerebral…
‘Well most of them, with the exception of Faf, are massive! Which helps doesn’t it!’