Van Wyk bids to emulate compatriot Mujati at Saints

Francois van Wyk joined Saints from Western Force during the summer (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Francois van Wyk joined Saints from Western Force during the summer (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

"I'm not a great talker," said a smiling Francois van Wyk as he sat down for his first interview with this publication.

However, the prop quickly proceeded to prove himself wrong as he opened up on life before and during his time at Saints.

Van Wyk was a summer recruit from Perth-based Super Rugby side Western Force, but his start to life in Northampton has been far from plain sailing.

The 26-year-old has featured in his new club's past six matches, five of which have ended in defeat.

But those setbacks are nothing compared to what Van Wyk experienced before arriving in England, as he explains in impressively open fashion.

"I had big injuries after each other and it set me back quite a bit," the South African loosehead said.

"I went through quite tough mental stages in my last four years so I did a lot of work with a psychologist and it gave me more points of view.

"It helped me to think differently about the game and now I'm at the Saints actually enjoying rugby.

"I found during my last bit of time at the Force, I struggled to get momentum and it was quite tough.

"Now I'm loving playing and being out on the field."

Van Wyk is hugely grateful for the chance he has been given at Saints and his determination to succeed not just at the club but in rugby in general is evident.

"If you're injured and you go through patches in your rugby career where you have setbacks, you have thoughts (about quitting) and stuff but I love the game," he said.

"I've got such a big passion and that's why I keep doing it.

"I've got no idea what I would be doing if I didn't play.

"I was lucky in life, after all my injuries, to get an opportunity at a club like the Saints."

Van Wyk's Saints debut came from the bench in the Aviva Premiership victory against Harlequins on September 30.

He also appeared as a replacement against Gloucester, Saracens, Clermont Auvergne and Wasps before making his first start in the defeat at Exeter Chiefs last Saturday.

It was a tough day for Saints as they were dominated in the forward battle and they shipped seven tries on their way to a 43-28 Anglo-Welsh Cup defeat.

But that hasn't dampened Van Wyk's enthusiasm ahead of Saturday's clash with the Dragons at Franklin's Gardens.

"It's been a good first two months for me, developing and getting my body right to play," he said.

"I'm happy to have got some game time.

"I've got a couple of starts and hopefully I can build on that.

"My biggest work-ons are set piece.

"There is a lot of focus on my scrums and my physical side of the game had to improve because Super Rugby's a bit quicker.

"It's more physical here and I've got to lift that part of the game."

Van Wyk has been working under the tutelage of Saints forwards coach Dorian West.

And he is hoping West can help him hit the heights of former Northampton props who became big names.

"My first scrummaging session was without shirts, very old school but something I enjoy," he said.

"I learned quite a bit from him (West).

"People I saw before like Mujati and those boys, I thought they were excellent and they were stand-out players in world rugby when they played here.

"I just want to lift my game and become as good as them."

Mujati is one of a number of South Africans to have starred for Saints.

And Van Wyk is the latest recruit from the country, with the likes of Nic Groom and Cobus Reinach also strutting their stuff at the Gardens.

"There have been a couple of South Africans here and I've always had interest in the Premiership," Van Wyk said.

"Before I came, I spoke to Groomy (Nic Groom) and he enjoys it. It was quite positive feedback.

"We've got a couple of South Africans here and it's been good."