SALE SHARKS are flying high in Gallagher Premiership Rugby and one of the players who has been instrumental in their rise, Rob du Preez has today been named Gallagher Player of the Month for December 2022.
Du Preez, the top scorer in Gallagher Premiership Rugby, with 133 points to his name was today acclaimed by BT Sport pundit and Gallagher ambassador, Ugo Monye.
Monye said: “Sale Sharks have been putting in rounded team performances, the most I have seen from Sharks in quite a long while, and of course, Rob has been crucial to that.
“He has been really commanding, leading with his actions on the pitch whether it has been gameplay, control, goal kicking, his all-round game has been fantastic in December.
“He has added some really impressive try-scoring form of late whether that be in the Gallagher Premiership Rugby or Europe. Sharks are sat there in second in Gallagher Premiership Rugby and really playing in quite a groove.
“They could still chase down Saracens in the top spot, and they have given themselves a buffer because they have beaten teams up and down the league as well as the ones around them.
“So, that result at the weekend getting five points and denying Harlequins anything shows that they can get points off teams that are targeting those top two spots.”
Andy Newby, (above with Rob), Sales Director at Gallagher, who presented the award said:
“We are delighted to present the award for Gallagher Player of the Month to Rob for his performance in December. The Sharks have now established a good distance between them and Harlequins in third place and Rob has played a key role in helping them achieve this.
“Drawing on his international experience he has become a key member of Alex Sanderson’s squad and will continue to play a pivotal role in the team’s success during the rest of Gallagher Premiership Rugby this season.”
Saracens outside-half Owen Farrell was the runner-up this month with London Irish’s Ollie Hassell-Collins third. Monye is delighted to see the way the Sharks are not only performing on the pitch but off it.
He added: “They sold out their last game at the AJ Bell, so it is not just what the team is doing but the community is getting really excited about what they have up there.
“It says a lot about the side that Alex Sanderson is building up there, you can often see the personality of a director of rugby run right throughout the team and Alex as a player and a coach is very detailed around the fundamentals of the game.
“He respects the fundamentals and so does the team, they are a hard-working side with the best defence in the league and they have layered some great attack on top of that.
“They are the attributes that you need to be really competitive, so it is no surprise that they are sat where they are.” As part of his prize for being named Gallagher Player of the Month, Du Preez wins a shirt signed by the whole Sale Sharks squad and framed by Gallagher to gift to a charity of his choice, to help raise funds for its chosen cause.
Du Preez was voted for by a panel of media professionals based on his performances in December 2022, alongside a public poll on the Premiership Rugby app.
The judges were: Nick Mullins (BT Sport), Alastair Eykyn (BT Sport), Alex Lowe (The Times) Hugh Godwin (I), Andrew Baldock (Press Association), John Everly (Bristol Post and Bath Chronicle) Jill Douglas (Broadcaster), Craig Swayne (The Good, The Bad and The Rugby), Chris Jones (BBC 5 Live), David Rogers (Getty Images) and Tom Hamilton (ESPN). The panel was chaired by Paul Morgan, Premiership Rugby’s Communications Director.
Winners in the 2022-23 season December – Rob du Preez (Sale Sharks) November – Ollie Lawrence (Bath Rugby) October – Alex Goode (Saracens) September – Theo McFarland (Saracens)
Winners in the 2021-22 season March – George McGuigan (Newcastle Falcons) February – Freddie Burns (Leicester Tigers) January – André Esterhuizen (Harlequins) December – George Ford (Leicester Tigers) November – Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints) October – George Ford (Leicester Tigers) September – Adam Radwan (Newcastle Falcons)
Winners in the 2020-21 season May – Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs) April – Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby) March- Danny Care (Harlequins) February – Marcus Smith (Harlequins) January – Piers O’Conor (Bristol Bears) December – Alfie Barbeary (Wasps) November – Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs)
Winners in the 2019-20 season August – Jack Willis (Wasps) May– Paul Hill and Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints)* April – Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs) March – Jamal Ford-Robinson (Gloucester Rugby) February – Charles Piutau (Bristol Bears) January – Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins) December – Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby) November – Tom O’Flaherty (Exeter Chiefs)
* Gallagher ran public polls while play was suspended to nominate a ‘Community Player of the Month’ in recognition of inspiring off-pitch performances made by players during lockdown to support their local communities and boost the morale of the wider rugby community. Winners in the 2018-19 season April – Francois Hougaard (Worcester Warriors) March – Santiago Cordero (Exeter Chiefs) February – Rory Hutchinson (Northampton Saints) December – Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints)# November – Ollie Thorley (Gloucester Rugby) October – Alex Goode (Saracens) September – Danny Cipriani (Gloucester Rugby)
Winners in the 2017-18 season April – Vereniki Goneva (Newcastle Falcons) March – Joe Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs) February – Jack Willis (Wasps) December – Josh Adams (Worcester Warriors) November – Ruan Ackermann (Gloucester Rugby) October – Jonny May (Leicester Tigers) September – Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Winners in the 2016-17 season April – Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby) March – Christian Wade (Wasps) February – James Short (Exeter Chiefs) December – Tom Varndell (Bristol Rugby) November – Freddie Burns (Leicester Tigers) October – Mako Vunipola (Saracens) September – Jimmy Gopperth (Wasps)
Winners in the 2015-16 season April – Teimana Harrison (Northampton Saints) March – Francois Hougaard (Worcester Warriors) February – George Smith (Wasps) January – Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs) December – Maro Itoje (Saracens) November – Nathan Hughes (Wasps) October – Nick Evans (Harlequins)
Winners in the 2014-15 season April – Joe Simpson (Wasps) March – Elliot Daly (Wasps) February – Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) January – Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby) December – Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints) November – Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs)# October – Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby) September – Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby)
Winners in the 2013-14 season April – Chris Ashton (Saracens) March – Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks) February – Vereniki Goneva (Leicester Tigers) January – Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) December – Nick Easter (Harlequins) November – George Ford (Bath Rugby) October – Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints) September – Jacques Burger (Saracens)
Leicester Tigers head coach, Dan McKellar said: “The group, players and staff were on the go for 23 weeks straight so getting away from the game for a period was really beneficial and we’ve come back in enthused for this challenge this week.
“Ealing are a team full of experience and quality, so we’ll have to be at our best to get the result we want, on a big day for the likes of Hanro and Finn.
“It’s fitting that Hanro leads us on his 100th game. He carried a lot of the leadership burden during the World Cup and continues to be someone the boys can count on to lead with his actions.”
Scott MacLeod is returning to Newcastle Falcons as line-out coach, with the former Scotland lock on board until at least the end of the season.
The Hawick native spent 11 years with the Falcons, making 61 appearances as a player before joining the coaching team in 2016.
Having departed Kingston Park last summer MacLeod will now return to impart his expertise, combining coaching commitments with working for his family’s business in the Scottish Borders.
Newcastle Falcons’ consultant director of rugby Steve Diamond said: “Scott is a well-respected line-out specialist who can help us make some big gains in that area between now and the end of the season.
“He knows and loves the club, he’s very well regarded here and I’m looking forward to getting him back involved.
“We’ve initially said it’s until the end of the season and I know Scott has other business commitments, but if it works well for both parties over the next few months then we’ll be happy to look at extending it beyond that.”
Capped 24 times by Scotland in a playing career which also saw him starring for Border Reivers, Edinburgh, Scarlets, Kobelco Steelers and Newcastle, the set-piece specialist is relishing the prospect of reinvigorating the Falcons’ line-out during the remainder of the season.
MacLeod said: “Our line-out has consistently been in the top four of the Premiership over the past few years, so hopefully I can come in and help get us back up there.
“I’ve been watching the games from afar this season because Newcastle Falcons is still a big part of my life, even though I’ve not been personally involved since the summer. I just want to come in and make a positive difference, get us back to where we should be and help the boys.”
Having spent more than a decade at Kingston Park as a player and coach, MacLeod insisted the opportunity to return was just too good to pass up.
“I’ve missed the place a lot,” said the 44-year-old.
“I’m now working for my family’s business, MacLeod Glass, up in Hawick, but I’m sure any sportsperson will tell you they miss being in and around that team environment. It’s certainly very different going from a Premiership rugby club to working in a factory every day, and it’s been a shock to the system.
“I’ll now get to combine both, and I’ve missed being involved with the professional game. I’ve been coaching my son’s S2 side to get my rugby fix, but I’m buzzing to be back with the Falcons. It’s a really special club for me.”
Setting out with one clear aim, the Scot said: “I just want us to get our identity back.
“I’ll come in, assess our strengths and our weaknesses and come up with a plan accordingly. I know some of the players really well and I don’t know others at all, but luckily with us having this big break before our next game it’s absolutely ideal timing for getting things in place.
“One thing you have to bear in mind with Newcastle is how bad the weather is, in terms of how much you can push it in the line-out, but I just want to get the confidence back into the boys.
“It’s about simple things being done well on a consistent basis, and I’m starting this week to help put it in motion.
“I’ve got a few weeks to get to know the guys I’ve not worked with before, see how it all ties in with the lads I already know and then knit it all together into a game plan which works best for the team.
“As I say, I just want us to have that Newcastle Falcons identity again when it comes to the line-out, and I’m really positive about things. We’ll see how it works between now and the end of the season, and if everyone’s happy then we can see where it goes.”
Newcastle Falcons’ next home game is against Leicester Tigers on Good Friday (March 29), with tickets on sale for the 7.45pm kick-off by clicking here.
Sharks scrum-half Gus Warr has committed his long-term future to the club by signing a new deal keeping him at the Salford Stadium until the end of the 2026/27 season.
The 24-year-old has played more than 70 first team games for the club since making his debut against Harlequins at the Stoop in September, 2018.
Gus, who has represented both Scotland and England at age grade level, played his junior rugby at Winnington Park RFC and Bowdon RFC before joining the Sharks Academy at the age of 14.
The 5’8” half-back joined Doncaster Knights on loan at the end of the 2019/20 season, and then re-joined again on a dual-registry deal ahead of the 2021/22.
Injuries led to his early return and he took his chance, quickly becoming a Sharks regular and featuring in the Premiership final at the end of the 2022/23 season.
Sharks Director of Rugby Alex Sanderson said: “Gus surprises me on a daily basis. I don’t know if he always loves me but I love him. Gus isn’t as physical as some other players in his position, but there is no-one who can match him for sheer grit, effort and determination.
“I don’t think he’s ever better than when he’s challenged or labelled ‘just alright’. He’s so much more than that and we’re so lucky to have him.
“His character epitomises what we’re all about here – he’s hard-working, resilient, robust and northern and that’s everything we strive to be as a club and as a team.
“Gus is still only young so there’s so much more to come from him. Everyone is buzzing that he wants to stay here.”
Gus said: “Playing for Sale Sharks has been my ambition since I was very young and now to get to play in front of an amazing crowd every week, with some of my best mates, is a dream come true.
“We’ve got so many young, hungry players and this is a really exciting time to push on and build on what was started last year and show that Northern rugby really matters.”