• Part 1: Saffas abroad to light up Premiership restart

    SARugbymag.co.za looks at the South African players who could be key for their respective clubs as the English Premiership restarts this weekend.

    The competition is set to resume on Friday with what could be an enthralling clash as the second-placed Sale Sharks take on Harlequins, currently in seventh place.

    As the competition is full of talented South African players, we look at who could really be key to ensuring that their side achieve their targets throughout the rest of the season.

    EXETER CHIEFS

    Position: 1st (45 points)

    Jannes Kirsten

    An underrated signing from the Vodacom Bulls, Kirsten has been a major part of the Chiefs’ drive to the top of the table, putting in some solid performances at lock.

    The 26-year-old was in fine form before the break in the season, scoring in big wins over Bath and the Northampton Saints, while making an impressive 21 tackles in a massive shift against Gloucester back in February.

    Kirsten has had his form rewarded with a new contract with the Chiefs and will be looking to pick up where he left off and help the Chiefs to the Premiership title.

    Jacques Vermeulen

    Also in his first season with the Chiefs after joining from the Sharks, Vermuelen has made himself indispensable in the No 7 jersey, starting in 11 of the Chiefs’ 13 Premiership matches so far.

    Averaging just over 12 tackles per match with an incredible 91% success rate, Vermeulen has been a giant in the Chiefs defensive line as he has missed just 12 of his 135 tackle attempts.

    Add to that his ability in the carry, with 14 defenders beaten from an average of nine carries per match, and it is clear why the 25-year-old has been a key cog in Rob Baxter’s forwards-oriented Chiefs side. If he continues his form, a Springbok place could be in the works for the former Junior Bok.

    SALE SHARKS

    Position: 2nd (40 points)

    Faf de Klerk

    A combination of 2019 World Cup commitments and a knee injury means that the 2019-20 season has been a quiet one for De Klerk so far, with the Sale fan favourite restricted to just five appearances this season.

    However, the Springbok scrumhalf made a successful comeback just before the break, coming off the bench against London Irish for an immediate impact with two try assists.

    Hopefully back to full fitness, De Klerk will be looking to resume his halfback partnership with fellow South African Rob du Preez and continue steering the Sharks to a title challenge.

    Lood de Jager

    Another South African who has seen limited game time this season, De Jager was only able to make his belated debut for the Sale Sharks in March after recovering from the shoulder injury he suffered in the 2019 World Cup final.

    However, with Sale lacking in depth in the second row (Jean-Luc du Preez has been used in the No 5 jersey for most of this season) De Jager can look forward to adding to his one and only appearance when the season resumes.

    The 27-year-old’s proficiency at the lineout, in particular, should help Sale shore up one of the weaker areas of their game.

    Jono Ross

    The Sale Sharks captain has been in inspirational form for his side this season.

    Starting all 13 games, Ross currently leads the Premiership’s defensive stats with a massive 201 completed tackles and a success rate of 95%, missing just 11 of his attempts. With nine fixtures still to be played, Ross could be on track to match last season’s efforts of 331 tackles.

    Du Preez brothers

    The Du Preez brothers have all settled comfortably in what is their first Premiership season together as a trio.

    Oldest brother Rob has been a commanding presence at flyhalf, having started all 13 games in the No 10 jersey, scoring 116 points, putting him third on the season’s top-scorers list. The 27-year-old hasn’t been afraid to try things with ball in hand, picking up eight try assists and beating 14 defenders so far.

    As previously stated, Jean-Luc has had to adapt to a new role for the Sharks this season, playing nine of the 12 games he has been involved in at lock. However, he has coped with the move really well, winning five turnovers and making 110 tackles. With Lood de Jager ready and waiting, Jean-Luc could possibly return to his primary position in the loose trio for the rest of the season.

    The third of the Du Preez brothers, Dan, has possibly been the most eye-catching of the three, putting in a number of destructive performances at No 8. Starting 12 games this season, Dan has beaten a massive 46 defenders with nine linebreaks and 18 offloads showcasing his skills. He has also scored three tries and has contributed defensively with a 96% tackle success rate. If he can continue his form, there will be calls for him to be included in the Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship in November.

    Rohan Janse van Rensburg

    A physical force in the Sharks’ midfield, Janse van Rensburg has been a threat to anyone standing in his way, bulldozing through defensive lines this season. With 362 metres from 84 carries, Janse van Rensburg averages 4,31m per carry. He has also beaten 47 defenders, putting him fifth on the season’s tally.

    If the 25-year-old alone wasn’t enough of a threat, England centre Manu Tuilagi made the switch to Sale during the break, meaning that the Sharks could boast one of the most physically strong midfields in the Premiership.

    One element Janse van Rensburg will have to work on is his defence as he currently only averages a 70% tackle success rate, missing 16 of his attempted 54 tackles.

    ALSO READ: Bok pair to miss Premiership restart

    NORTHAMPTON SAINTS

    Position: 4th (35 points)

    Shaun Adendorff

    With talismanic scrumhalf Cobus Reinach having left Northampton to join French club Montpellier, Saints fans will be looking for a new cult hero.

    They need not look further than Adendorff, who joined the club during the break from French second division side Aurillac. While he isn’t the most high profile of signings made during the enforced break, Adendorff has certainly sounded like a man on a mission, outlining his desire to leave a legacy that would make his children proud.

    What’s more, Adendorff certainly has the talent to match his talk. While moving to Aurillac led to him falling off the radar slightly, it has allowed a new dimension to his game, becoming a better all-round player after some attacking flair to his excellent defensive work.

    WASPS

    Position: 5th (33 points)

    Juan de Jongh

    The 2019-20 season has been a tough one for De Jongh as the centre has struggled with groin and wrist injuries, while also losing his starting role to All Blacks star Malakai Fekitoa, playing in just five games this season.

    However, the Springbok will be keen to not only win his place back but also contribute positively as Wasps are still in the hunt for a place in the playoffs, trailing the Saints by just two points.

    De Jongh unquestionably still has the talent to add a different dimension to the Wasps midfield, having scored 11 tries in his time in Coventry. However, he will need to be entrusted with a starting role to pick up some consistency and remind fans of his skill.

    BATH

    Position: 6th (30 points)

    Juan Schoeman

    Having joined Bath from the Sharks during the enforced break, Schoeman will be looking to prove his worth after being restricted for game time at the Sharks, playing under Tendai Mtawarira before Ox Nche arrived in Durban.

    The older brother of Edinburgh star and soon-to-be-capped Scotland player Pierre, Juan is similarly strong and disciplined in the art of scrumming. The 28-year-old loosehead has proven himself more than capable as a substitute, but will look for a starting role in a competitive Bath squad.

    * Note: The Bristol Bears (3rd) were not included as they currently do not have any South African players in their senior squads.

    Photo: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

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    Dylan Jack