De Klerk praised the support he received from family and the club

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Faf de Klerk has revealed that he was among the 27 members of Sale Sharks staff that tested positive for coronavirus at the end of last season, an outbreak that cost the club a place in the Premiership play-offs last month.

The scrum-half, a star of South Africa’s Rugby World Cup victory last year, admitted that his symptoms were among the most serious at Sale but insists he has fully recovered ahead of the 2020-21 domestic campaign.

“I was pretty bad,” said the 29-year-old, poised to feature against Northampton Saints on Friday evening at the AJ Bell Stadium.

“I had severe body-aches and a fever for the first few days. After that, I was a bit tired. I was probably one of the worst cases at the club but I’m all good now and feeling great.

“I think I have had worse cases of flu,” he added. “But the problem with it is that people get different symptoms, so you are just seeing what is going to happen.

“I felt pretty bad for the first few days and a lot of family were maybe a bit scared of me being on my own and having it. But, in terms of not infecting anyone else, that was a good thing.”

De Klerk explained that Sale’s frustration after the forfeiture of their final-round meeting with Worcester Warriors, which allowed Bristol Bears to leapfrog them into the Premiership top four, was tempered because the punishment and spread of infection felt “out of our hands”.

The Springbok also pointed out that, with greater consistency, Sharks would not have needed to win their last regular-season outing: “Sometimes we’d pitch up to a game and blast teams out of the water. Other times it’d be a massive fight.”

Geech on Friday promotion

Although his own pre-season training was compromised while he recovered, De Klerk was grateful for the support of his club colleagues during the worst of the condition.

“What got me through the virus was thinking: ‘I’ve got it now, and it’s bad, but there are people in much worse situations than I am – whether they have contracted it or not,’” he said.

“I was still getting paid, I was still in a privileged position. It was basically about getting through it. I had a lot of support from other players and the club, guys willing to come over to drop stuff off.

“We still had a security blanket that others don’t have. Through all the bad, we were still in a much better spot than a lot of others out there.”

Meanwhile, Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond says that the club has been exonerated for their handling of the outbreak. The Rugby Football Union and Public Health North West have been investigating, with the results due to be published later this week.

Although disappointed for the individuals in question, such as De Klerk, Diamond acknowledged that South Africa’s withdrawal from the Rugby Championship had left him with a stronger squad for the season’s opening. He also suggested that Sale could use October’s setback for added motivation as the Premiership begins again for 2020-21.

“They all know we missed out on an opportunity,” he said. “We don’t talk about that anymore but there’s a bit of s— in the place, if I’m honest.

“It needs to come out over the next month and hopefully it does with the right trajectory.”