This may be a sweeping generalisation but South Africans all have that hard, nasty edge.

Sale are not messing about with their recruitment for next season in signing six high-quality South Africans. Biltong and Boddingtons does not sound like the most appetising combination but that is the recipe that Steve Diamond believes will fire them towards the top four.

The du Preez brothers — Robert, Jean-Luc and Daniel — Akker van der Merwe, Coenie Oosthuizen and Springbok second-row Lood de Jager amount to a serious amount of firepower.

Add them to Sale's resident South Africans in Jono Ross, Josh Strauss, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and the fabulous Faf de Klerk, and the AJ Bell Stadium is going to resemble little Cape Town next season.


It is not hard to see from where Diamond took his inspiration. The Saracens dynasty was largely founded on importing South Africans en masse. "Saffacens" they were called but those guys — Schalk Brits, Neil de Kock, Ernst Joubert, Brad Barritt and Jacques Burger — did so much to establish Saracens' culture of suffocating defence and incredible work-rate.

Gloucester followed suit last season, with head coach Johan Ackermann bringing in his son, Ruan, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Gerbrandt Grobler, Ruan Dreyer and Franco Marais. It is no coincidence they are now in the playoffs.

This may be a sweeping generalisation but South Africans all have that hard, nasty edge. Even the little fellas such as de Klerk, Cobus Reinach and Francois Hougaard.

They are durable and tend to be relatively religious folk. At a time when rugby and religion are really in the spotlight, I know a lot of coaches feel Christians are driven to perform and less likely to go off the rails.

Yet if you look at the recent record of imports, there are just as many misses as there are hits. Leicester signed Matt Toomua on the basis that he was going to be available all year around, but then the door opened for him to play for Australia again. Suddenly his head is turned, his form disintegrates and he leaves the club.

Signing foreign players, particularly in the marquee bracket, is a science, but I still think rugby lags way behind football and American football in terms of their diligence.

A chairman may see a New Zealand first-five tearing it up in Super Rugby and think "he could do that for us". Lima Sopoaga looked like one of the best No10s on the planet before he signed for Wasps. There has been no evidence of that this season, with Billy Searle often preferred. It is a similar story with Brad Shields.

The problem is that Super Rugby is a very different competition to the Premiership, which is far closer to international rugby in terms of intensity. There is a much greater emphasis on the set-piece and most games need to be ground out.

Then there is the issue of assimilation.

Although there is no language barrier between us and New Zealand, South Africa or Australia, they are still half a world away.

They are thousands of miles from their friends and family trying to immerse themselves in an alien culture. It can be so isolating.

The real genius behind what Saracens do is that they recognise players perform best when they are happy and prepared to fight for each other.

If you are homesick then you are unlikely to perform well. That is why signing players en masse from one country is such a good idea, as they have an inbuilt support network.

I think Sale will go places next season. They are fabulous signings which will make the Premiership a stronger competition. Yet you also have to think about the impact it will have on South Africa. With the rand so weak, Sale are far from the only club getting Boks on the cheap.

There is a real danger that South Africa are going to become like Fiji: an incredible collection of players but scattered all over the world. The Springboks' loss has definitely been Sale's gain.