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Odendaal excited for fresh start with Saints after turbulent year

New Saints signing Burger Odendaal admits that it is Northampton’s style of play that excites him the most ahead of his first season in Black, Green and Gold, as he settles back into life in England following a brief spell in Japan.

The South African centre has now joined up with his new teammates at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens while he continues his rehabilitation from a dislocated shoulder.

It will be the 30-year-old’s second spell in the Gallagher Premiership after his time with Wasps was cut short last term when his former employers were placed into administration.

Ironically, Odendaal’s last game for the West Midlands club was against the men in Black, Green and Gold in a thrilling match at the Coventry Building Society Arena in October 2022, which was sensationally settled by Courtnall Skosan’s last-gasp try.

“I do enjoy running rugby and Saints’ style of play is a very exciting thing,” Odendaal said.

“My last game for Wasps was against Saints and we lost in the dying minutes of the game. They basically just ran us off the field! It’s exciting to be part of this group.”

Burger Odendaal

Fortunately for the Bloemfontein-born back, Toshiba Brave Lupus Tokyo came calling soon after Wasps’ demise and offered a lifeline before he was confirmed as a future Saint in January 2023.

Reflecting on the day he and 166 others were made redundant and his journey back to English rugby with Saints, he added: “To be honest, that was terrible. To this day, I still can’t believe how everything turned out.

“We packed up everything in South Africa, moved over here basically being ready for a two-year stint at Wasps and it was three months exactly down the line when everything happened. It was a massive adjustment for us, just trying to find our feet.

“Luckily I got the deal in Japan, but we knew it was only short term so I’m very grateful to have the opportunity at Saints.

“We’re really looking forward to being able to stay in a place for more than six months because we’re so sick and tired of just living out of our suitcase!”

Odendaal returned to South Africa from Japan to undergo surgery on his injured shoulder and commenced rehabilitation with a view to hitting the ground running at the Gardens.

“I basically wanted to get back to training as fast as possible and I thought I would start doing contact stuff when I got here, but Saints’ S&C staff have been really thorough and were keen for me to do a solid four-week block of strength training before I start doing contact,” the centre added.

“I have been joining the team with skills training and I actually did a bit of contact last week so it should only be a couple of weeks before I can join the team properly.

“The timing’s not too bad because the season is starting a bit later this year. It’s never a good thing having an injury, but the timing actually wasn’t too bad.”

Standing 187cm tall and weighing just under 100kg, Odendaal cuts an imposing figure but was keen to stress there’s more than one dimension to his game that Saints supporters will see this season.

He said: “Rugby always changes over the years and every season you can’t really compare to the previous one, so you have to evolve as a player.

“I don’t want to be known as just a ball carrier, I always work on my skills as well and hopefully I can be my own style of player.”

Burger Odendaal

“I don’t really like it when people compare me to other players, so I just try to be the best me that I can be. There have been a few world-class South African players at Saints over the years, so hopefully I can step up to the challenge as well.”

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