Saints signing Adendorff: I've fought my whole life for this

Last month, the news we have known for some time was announced by Saints.

By Tom Vickers
Monday, 6th July 2020, 12:33 pm
Updated Monday, 6th July 2020, 12:34 pm
Shaun Adendorff is on his way to Saints
Shaun Adendorff is on his way to Saints

Two players who agreed terms with the club many weeks ago were finally confirmed as members of the Northampton squad.

And both can be considered intriguing signings.

Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi was one of them, treading the path back to Franklin's Gardens having enjoyed a successful spell at London Irish since leaving Saints in 2016.

There were high hopes for the loosehead prop, who is now 26, when he emerged from the Saints Academy.

But he never quite got the game time he wanted at the Gardens, being edged out by the likes of the Waller brothers and Alex Corbisiero.

Now though, he is back - and hopefully with a bang.

The other signing was a player Saints fans will know far less about, but with no less interesting a story to tell.

South African back row forward Shaun Adendorff is heading to Northampton from French second division side Aurillac.

And he says he is desperate to create a legacy at the Gardens, having felt the lows of rugby after such highs as a youngster.

Adendorff was a star for South Africa Under-20s when they won the Junior World Championship in 2012.

He was even nominated for the IRB Junior World Player of the Year prize during that tournament, sitting on a shortlist alongside former Saint JJ Hanrahan and Jan Serfontein.

It was to be Adendorff's compatriot Serfontein who claimed the prize after Adendorff was left unable to have a say in the final success for the South Africans.

And from then on, the player's career has included a series of hurdles that have eventually led him to Northampton.

"It's any young player's dream to win a Junior World Cup and it's definitely a big highlight of my career so far," Adendorff told Brenden Nel in a YouTube interview.

"I was fortunate enough to be nominated for player of the tournament but unfortunate not to play a second in the final, which cost me the chance to win the title of player of the tournament.

"My career was definitely going uphill there but then certain circumstances and certain people's opinions didn't go my way, but that's rugby and that's life. It doesn't always go your way.

"I've definitely had to fight my whole career to get where I am now.

"It's definitely taught me more than most people would get in their careers."

When asked to expand more on why things hadn't worked out as he'd hoped back home, Adendorff, now 28 years old, said: "If you looked at it from an outsider's perspective, you would think a player in my position after 2012 would be on a fast-track in senior rugby.

"But certain things didn't go my way, some people didn't think it was my path.

"It was a difficult time for me personally, I struggled very badly mentally and it just means I've had to take a longer route to get to where I wanted to be.

"I was just not given a chance in South Africa, it didn't matter how hard I trained or how many skillsets I added to my arsenal, I was just not the player the team wanted.

"I accepted it and I decided to make the move to France.

"You obviously don't want to be going to another country and going into a tournament like PRO D2, which is so different to other places I've played at.

"But I took the challenge and I turned it into a positive.

"I've turned all those negative things around and made it work for myself.

"I've changed the way I play, I'm a different player to what I was in South Africa and I'm also in a different weight class, as most players are when they move to France!

"PRO D2 and Aurillac have helped me so much in my life so far and it has been such a positive thing.

"It's taught me that it doesn't matter how many times you get knocked down, you can get back up.

"It's always going to be hard, I've accepted that and it's made me a very strong person.

"As you can see on the field, I'm a very difficult person to play against."

The Durban-born No.8, who featured for South Africa's sevens team in 2014 and 2015, had stints with the Vodacom Bulls in Super Rugby and Currie Cup side Vodacom Blue Bulls before heading to play for Aurillac two years ago.

And he has become a force to be reckoned with in France.

"When I entered the professional setup in South Africa, I went from playing No.8 for many years at school to going to the Bulls, where bigger was better," Adendorff explained.

"I was by far the smallest loose forward and then they said 'okay, we've got SA schools players, provincial players' and I wasn't any of that, no one knew who I was.

"I had to change my game, I played at six and I perfected it.

"I did really well and then the rest of my career in South Africa, I was just labelled as a fetcher.

"When I went to France, I said 'this is my time to change who I am'.

"I wanted to go back to playing eight, where I feel very comfortable.

"In PRO D2 and with the way the French people play, I felt I would be better suited at eight and it would help my career much more.

"I went back to eight and adapted very quickly.

"Whereas in South Africa I was more of a defensive player, in France I've taken my defensive game and added a whole new range of attacking to it.

"Now I'm one of the best attacking players in PRO D2."

Saints supporters will love to hear that as they have been eager to see some extra bulk added to their back row.

And it appears Adendorff has the right attitude to succeed in England, thanks to how he was brought up.

"My dad comes from a boxing background, fighting his whole life," Adendorff said.

"He's not one of the tallest guys, he's even shorter than me, so even in his weight division he was always one of the smallest.

"He would always get knocks and he would always say he'd never be the best fighter, but he would be the most mentally strong fighter, always fighting until the end, until it was done.

"That's what got him through his career in boxing.

"Me and my brother were so good at rugby and he was a rugby coach as well so he's put that mentality into our rugby.

"You can't beat a guy who is not willing to stay down."

Adendorff's desire has clearly impressed the Saints coaching staff.

And you can sense the hunger in his voice as he adds: "I'm so grateful for the chance I got in France with Aurillac but you've always got to be motivated to play first-class rugby and that was always my ambition.

"I feel like with my skillset and the type of player I am, I'm better suited to a first-class setup.

"I would do even better with a more professional setup and more skilful players, more physical players at my side.

"That's not taking anything away from people playing in PRO D2, they're just as tough and just as skilful, but I feel I can do a lot better in a league like the Premiership, where the game is faster and there are a lot more players who can complement my skillset."

And while Adendorff clearly draws plenty of inspiration from his father, he wants to have the same impact on his own children.

He said: "Every professional rugby player wants to leave a legacy.

"I've got two boys and they're already so crazy about rugby and I want them to be able to say 'that's my dad, he's playing in the Premiership and he's doing really well and he's a legend within his right'.

"I want my kids to be able to talk about me like that and I have to do as much as I can.

"No one wants to be like 'my dad was just a rugby player' and not be able to mention anything else about him.

"I want to do as much as I can for my kids to be like 'wow, my dad was an amazing rugby player' and they will follow in my footsteps.

"We can take it from there and make the next generation of rugby players."