Ernst reigns as Premiership ‘tackle-king’

The unheralded former Stormers forward Ernst van Rhyn has been lauded as an “exceptional player” after making a sensational start to life in the Premiership with Sale Sharks.

According to Opta Stats, Van Rhyn is one of only two players to have successfully completed more than 80 tackles across the major European leagues this season. He has also made twice as many dominant tackles (24) as any other player across the Premiership, Vodacom URC and French Top 14 this campaign.

The 26-year-old made the hard decision to leave the Stormers at the end of last season, having spent the entirety of his career to that point in the Western Cape.

However, Van Rhyn’s first stint away from Cape Town appears to be paying off, as he has been at the heart of a Sale Sharks team that sits second in the Premiership, after winning four of their first five games of the season.

Less than two months into the campaign, Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson admitted to the English media that he was already chuffed with how the decision to recruit the former Junior Springbok captain is paying off.

“It’s got to be a little bit of luck because we didn’t assume he would be this good,” enthused Sanderson. “You talk about the tackle king, he has been to the most amount of rucks two or three times this year in the five games.

“He also ran second highest metres the week before last behind Sam James at fullback; it’s always the back three or centres who run more metres and he is up there. It’s his stats all round. He was making offloads and breaks in the wide channels at the weekend, so he is an exceptional player with unbelievable consistency and robustness. We are so lucky.

“He talked about his dad and his dad would be most disappointed with him if he scored a couple of tries but was walking around the field. He wears work rate as a badge.”

Photo: George Wood/Getty Images for Sale Sharks

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