Encouragement from former Lions coach Johan Ackermann helped prolific try-scorer Courtnall Skosan to hit the ground running at Northampton Saints.
Before making the trip up north to his new team, the former Springbok received a call from Ackermann wishing him well.
Skosan told SA Rugby Mag: “Coach Johan Ackermann gave me a call days before I came and said: ‘You’re going to enjoy this place so much. It’s a lovely town, with lovely people, you’re going to enjoy your rugby and you’re going to grow as a person as well’.”
Superb Saints start
The 30-year-old, who showed incredible form at the Lions during their fine run under Ackermann, has moved to the Premiership this season and has started strongly at the Franklin’s Gardens club. He scored a hat-trick on debut against Worcester Warriors and has continued to shine in his other matches.
Skosan, who was named Saints’ player of the month for October, discussed the transition into his new surroundings.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here and get that jersey over my head,” he said. “There’s a big legacy at this club; it’s a big town that loves their rugby, so you just feel so welcome whenever you’re driving around, going into a store.
“When you’re finding your way in the neighbourhood, the neighbours come and say, ‘Well done at the weekend’ or ‘Welcome to Saints’. It’s just special for me to be here.”
Skosan highlighted the boost players receive from playing in front of a home crowd, something South African-based players have not experienced for more than two years.
“When I came here for the first weekend, I was at the London Irish game, and that was quite an exciting game to watch,” he added. “You kind of got just that little bit of a feeling, walking in, seeing a crowd in the stadium for the first time in a year and a half. When I played my first game, there were 13,000 people here, and I hadn’t played in front of crowds for two years, so that was quite special as well.
“I’m not a showman, but I feel the crowd just brings such a special element to the game. They give you that energy in those moments when you’re down, a little bit tired, especially here when they start singing ‘When the Saints go marching in’. That’s where you get your energy from sometimes.”
Asked about life as a Saints player, he heaped praise on the family environment at the club.
“That was the nicest thing for me, the guys made me feel very welcome,” said Skosan. “Some of the guys gave me a lift on days when I didn’t have my car, they helped me take my kids to school.
“It’s small things, but it makes a difference. It means I felt that family vibe when I came in.”