Faf de Klerk stars as Sale Sharks take maximum points in win over play-off rivals Gloucester


Faf de Klerk starred as Sale Sharks recorded a 26-24 bonus point win over play-off rivals Gloucester at the AJ Bell stadium.

In a nail-biting affair between the two top four hopefuls, which saw each team score four tries, Sale held on to continue their impressive form on home soil.

De Klerk, who opened the scoring for Sharks, scored 11 points – his first of the season – which helped down a resurgent Gloucester side.

The World Cup winning scrum-half was absent for the first five months of the season after sustaining a hip injury during the British and Irish Lions series.

The South African played in the majority of the Rugby Championship, however after aggravating the issue, he was left with ‘no choice’ but to undergo surgery.

De Klerk, who made his first appearance of the season in Sale’s win at Harlequins in February, has rotated starting roles with Raffi Quirke in recent weeks. In the absence of the England youngster, de Klerk shined as he scored and created multiple Sharks tries.

He crossed after five minutes with a fine supporting run for Daniel du Preez who bulldozed his way through Gloucester’s defensive line. However, his side’s inability to maintain their discipline allowed the visitors to take the lead mid-way through the half.

At their first go of defending Gloucester’s driving maul, Sale succeeded. However, on at least three occassions, Alex Sanderson’s side struggled to do so.

Sale looked to have halted the Cherry and Whites’ maul initially, but a quick progression from the south west side allowed Santiago Socino to crash over with George Barton adding the extras.

The hosts regained the lead within 10 minutes when AJ MacGinty crossed at the third time of asking. After the ball was released quickly from the maul, Rob du Preez and Ben Curry almost went over, before the USA international bundled across.

Whilst MacGinty received medical treatment on a knock to the knee which eventually forced the fly-half off five minutes before half-time, de Klerk took charge of the kicking duties as he added the extras for 12-7.

Despite George Skivington’s side being defeated in their last two away matches – against Exeter Chiefs and Saracens – they travelled to Salford with the third best record on the road in the Premiership. Three minutes after falling behind, Gloucester responded with their second try of the afternoon.

After de Klerk was penalised for blocking the kick chaser, the Cherry and Whites set up the maul. This time there was no nothing Sharks could do to keep out the drive as Socino directed his way over for his second of the match.

In the earlier meeting between the sides at Kingsholm, Gloucester edged Sale out 33-32. Sharks struck for their third try two minutes before the interval, as the visitors found themselves unable to keep out the monstrous figure of JP du Preez from a quickly taken free kick.

Sale looked to build on their 19-12 half time lead in the opening minute of the second 40, however, de Klerk’s halfway line penalty drifted narrowly wide.

Sanderson’s side extended their advantage six minutes after the restart when Jean-Luc du Preez battled his way through to seal the bonus point.

De Klerk almost set up Du Preez with a skilful backwards offload, but in the next phase his fizzed pass allowed the second rower to charge over from metres out.

With a 26-12 advantage, Sharks controlled play and looked the more likely to score the next try.

However, after a misplaced pass from de Klerk, substitute Charlie Chaplin intercepted the ball on his own try line before sprinting the length of the pitch to reduce the points difference to nine.

The visitors continued to build momentum with the winning of back-to-back penalties which took them 5m out.

The driving maul was quickly formed, but this time Gloucester broke off which allowed Louis Hillman-Cooper to stretch over to score on his Premiership debut. Barton’s conversion narrowed the score line to 26-24.

Despite choosing on numerous occasions to kick to the corner rather than taking three points, Sale held on in the final ten minutes for a crucial five points.

Gloucester, who remain only two points off the play-offs following Exeter’s surprise defeat at Worcester Warriors, have now lost their last three away matches.

Sharks’ sixth victory in nine matches in 2022, sees them move four points off the top four. In his post-match interview, Sanderson revealed he was ‘pleased’ with maximum points, but is ‘bittersweet’ about ‘gifting’ Gloucester two points.

Sale’s director of rugby also provided a reasoning for a large number of absentees in the squad, as well as an immediate update on MacGinty:

“We have had some real issues with illness and injuries over the last 10 days,” revealed Sanderson.

“We have had blood tests come back which say we have had flu and that has just ripped through the squad – Lood [de Jager]is still suffering from that.

“On the back off three concussions last week to which none of those came through… but we got the five points and in two weeks time they are all going to be fit and healthy.

[Regarding MacGinty] “There is nothing from the doctors yet but he will have a scan after feeling something in his knee.”

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