Faf De Klerk is to depart Sale at the end of the season after a five-year spell at the AJ Bell Stadium during which he has become one of the sport’s biggest stars.
In a blow to the prestige of the Gallagher Premiership following the reduction in salary cap to £5million, De Klerk will leave alongside fellow South Africa 2019 World Cup winner Lood De Jager.
The 30-year-old’s international career had stalled until his stellar form at the Sharks propelled him back into Springboks selection and he has been first choice scrum-half ever since.
De Klerk has made 95 appearances for Sale since signing in 2017 and is set to join Japanese side NTT Docomo Red, while 29-year-old lock De Jager has accumulated 25 outings in an injury-hit stay in Manchester and is expected to return to South Africa.
The Sharks slipped out of Premiership play-off contention with their defeat by Saracens on Friday night, leaving the Heineken Champions Cup as De Klerk’s last chance of winning any front-line silverware at the club.
A last-16 double-header against Bristol begins on Saturday with Coenie Oosthuizen, another Springbok, passed fit to play after being ruled out against Saracens by an unfortunate sequence of events.
“There are chronic prop injuries like neck, back and all these things that senior props have to manage, but he was bitten by an insect on Thursday, believe it or not,” director of rugby Alex Sanderson said.
“It got infected and he tried to syringe it himself. Come game day he had inflammation and infection in and around the muscle because of his self-medicating approach to it. He couldn’t run.
“It’s ridiculous. The doctor’s been pulling his hair out. It’s the old school South African mentality – I’ll fix this myself.
“He’s fine now and running around like a spring chicken because the antibiotics have kicked in.”
Manu Tuilagi will also face Bristol after making a successful comeback from a strained hamstring against Saracens, but Sanderson is determined not to expose his injury-prone prized asset to unnecessary risk.
“Manu is brilliant. We’re still figuring out how best to manage him and we’re confident we can manage him through,” Sanderson added.
“If we get him through these next few weeks then we’ll probably have a pretty good blueprint for what a training week should look like for him.
“We’ll be quite stringent on game time for him this weekend. We’ll have a real plan around that.”
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