We sat down with Northampton Saints wing Courtnall Skosan ahead of this weekend’s trip to Bristol Bears, with the 30-year-old making an electrifying start to his career in Black, Green and Gold so far…
Q: It was an incredible start for you at Northampton Saints. How have you found your first few games for the Club?
CS: It was special to be out there and to make a memorable night like that – getting three tries on my debut against Worcester Warriors. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here and get that jersey over my head. 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.
Q: When you came out of quarantine, could you have dreamed of scoring that many tries so soon?
CS: You don’t ever think of that stuff. You just want to get going and get out there fighting with the players. I’d been watching all the games, obviously, for the last few months and I’d been hungry to be out here and get going. In quarantine, you just want to get out of that, you want to get into the town and start training with the boys. When I came here for the first weekend, I was at the London Irish game and that was quite an exciting game to watch. 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 was 13,000 people here, and I hadn’t played in front of crowds for two years so that was quite special as well.
Q: Have you thrived on playing at the Gardens?
CS: 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.
Q: How did moving to Saints first come about for you?
CS: I’d been in South Africa for the last 12 years, but I’ve been watching a lot of rugby from this side, and when the opportunity came up for me I knew that was one of those opportunities I wanted to take, because I love the way Saints play. I love some of the players here, I love the way they think about the game as well, so it was nice to hear that they were looking for a winger, and it was interesting that they chose me. I’m just so grateful to be here.
Q: What have you made of your early days at the club?
CS: Things are very professional here; the way we’re set up, the way the guys look after their bodies, the medical team, the coaches. The attention to detail, I think, is the biggest thing here and just the freedom to be yourself and be welcome. That was the nicest thing for me, the guys made me feel made feel very welcome. 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.
Q: A few South African players have played at Saints before. Did you notice any of their work here?
CS: Cobus Reinach did very well here – he does well wherever he goes! I think it was after he played here that he got called up by the Springboks, and that was quite special. The 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.’
Q: Some of the boys are back from England duty. Were you given any stick over the result at Twickenham last week?
CS: Actually, I congratulated them because it was a good Test! They came back quite humble, like all the boys are here, so there was no one giving any jokes, or anything like that. Some guys – not the guys in the squad – were saying it could have gone the other way as well. There’s no real ‘heated’ banter round here, so it’s been good.
Q: Have you been told to prepare yourself for your first winter in England? Conditions are, obviously, going to change quite a lot!
CS: I’m going from winter into winter this year because I came from the South African winter into the start of winter here! The guys warned me that it would be getting about 10 degrees colder, so I’ve layered up. I think the first week I came here, I was like ‘ooh, it’s getting a bit chilly’, but I’ve been told to get used to it slowly and not layer up so quickly – give yourself something to work towards to. The weather is getting cold, and all of that, but we are getting used to it and there’s enough kit here for us to keep warm, so you don’t feel it that much.
Q: What do you think of the team’s form, going into the Bristol Bears game?
CS: The last four defeats are more about the mistakes that we’ve made on our side. It’s stuff we can easily fix on the field, and we hopefully can come out this weekend, put in an 80-minute performance and get that result that we’re looking for.
Q: Are you looking forward to facing Bristol? They have a bit of a reputation for playing entertaining rugby as well?
CS: It’s going to make for an exciting game. They like to play a free-flowing game and we’ve got that kind of game in our arsenal as well, so it’s going be like fighting fire with fire, and it’s going to be quite interesting this weekend. It’s a team that’s quite open, but there’s a lot of structure to their game as well, so I feel like there are moments in the game where there are going to be opportunities. The team that takes those opportunities will probably be the team that gets the result on Friday. It’s going to be a tight affair.