Joe van Niekerk playing in April 2007
Saints sign van Niekerk
Northampton Saints have announced the signing of South African loose forward Joe van Niekerk.
The 27-year-old Springbok joins from Cape Town-based Super 14 franchise The Stormers and will arrive at Franklin's Gardens next season on a three-year deal. The exact date is yet to to be determined due to the selection of the South African World Cup squad on 23rd July.
Regarded as one of the most dynamic and tenacious loose forwards in South African rugby, van Niekerk is known for his pace, ball skills and all-round knowledge of the game.
He brings a wealth of experience to Northampton. He was selected for the 2001 Springboks straight from the South Africa U21 side before appearing in either the Currie Cup or Super 12. Since his international debut against the All Blacks he has been capped 46 times and scored eight tries.
Van Niekerk has won recognition for his rugby prowess throughout his career. In 2002 he was named South Africa's Player of the Year as well as being nominated as one of the International Rugby Board's five players of the year. He was named Player of the SANZAR/UAR U21 Championships in 2001 and was the Springboks' top player of the 2003 World Cup before an injury suffered against Samoa brought a premature end to his tournament.
His leadership skills have also been identified by representative selectors, having captained SA Schools in 1998 and the South Africa U19 and U21 sides in 1999 and 2001 respectively.
Having spent his career to date in South Africa, van Niekerk is now ready to bring his game to Northampton.
Van Niekerk playing for S. Africa in '06
"It's an absolute challenge to come overseas," he says. "And to come to a club that's as rich in tradition and history as Northampton is an awesome thing. I could not believe the supporters when I came to watch the game they where very passionate. I'm looking forward to it immensely."
"Joe will be a key part of squad over the next few years and brings undoubted experience and leadership," said Saints' director of rugby Jim Mallinder. "He will give depth in the back row, particularly at Number 8 where Mark Hopley and Mark Easter also have outstanding potential. His values as a person fit with what we are looking for and his attitude to helping the younger academy players develop was a key part of the decision to sign him.
"Joe's contract is a big commitment not only by him but for the club. In signing him for three years we are taking a longer term view on the contribution he will bring to Franklin's Gardens and are delighted that he will be joining us."
last updated: 15/11/07