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Alex Sanderson: “We’re revelling in the fact no one rates us”

Sale Sharks Director of Rugby Alex Sanderson has said his side are loving life as the ugly duckling of the Premiership play-offs.

The Sharks have had a turbulent season. They were top at Christmas, but a poor run of form saw them eighth ahead of the Six Nations break. This break clearly came at a good time though, as they rallied to secure third-place on the final day of the season, thanks to a dominant victory over Saracens.

Despite finishing third in the table, Sale didn’t have any players make the official Team of the Season, nor have any players nominated for Player of the Season.

Speaking to the media ahead of the play-offs, Sanderson said: “I went to the Premiership Awards and when I came back, I told the lads ‘not a lot to report, we didn’t win a thing’ to a massive cheer from the lads. I don’t think it was a surprise!

He added: “We’re actually leaning in and revelling in the fact that no one really rates us, but that’s not a bad place to be.”

“We’re just not as fashionable as other teams. We’re very proud, we’re enjoying ourselves, I think we’re putting a good bit of doubt in there as well. If we keep winning and keep performing, we’ll turn the tides of popularity, I’m sure.”

To rub salt into the wound, a promotional graphic for the play-offs from the RFU has done the rounds on social media which didn’t feature a single Sale player (this has now been edited), but it’s things like that that allow Sanderson to fuel his team.

“I think there’s an advert out there for ticket sales for the semi-finals, there’s not even a Sale player on the advert! That’s great, we can use that as ammunition.”

Alex Sanderson on Sale’s identity

Alex Sanderson-Credit: IMAGO

Alex Sanderson-Credit: IMAGO

As Sanderson alluded to earlier, Sale might not be the most ‘fashionable’ team in the league; but they are certainly one of the toughest.

Players like Sam Dugdale, Cobus Wiese, Ernst van Rhyn, Ben Curry and Gus Warr have all shown the ‘grit’ Sanderson requires from his team’s, and he said this is a huge part of the club’s identity.

“We’re a very proud, Northern club with some South African steel,” he said. “I think we’ve shown unbelievable resilience over the last five weeks, weeks when every game has been a knockout game. I am massively proud to be a part of this group.”

He added: “We’re resilient, we’ve got physicality, we’ve been growing and adding to our game particularly in this business end.”

Sale have really hit decent form in this back-end of the season. Wins in their past five Premiership games saw them march up the table into third-place.

Whilst they missed out on a home semi-final, Sanderson detailed he would rather have this purple patch building into a play-off game.

“I’d rather have form in a home semi-final, definitely; that’s what pulls you through. I’ve had it at Saracens, when we had form going into Northampton in 2015 from fourth place. I’m using that energy when no one else really thinks you can, but you believe and know you can. We’re using that momentum.”