Baxter welcomes Kirsten to the Chiefs
By Mark Stevens
Rob Baxter believes new signing Jannes Kirsten will help bring a ‘hard-nosed physicality’ to his Exeter Chiefs squad after he completed his move from the Blues Bulls.
The 25-year-old South African is the latest new addition to the playing ranks at Sandy Park, joining the Gallagher Premiership club on an initial one-year deal.
Baxter has swooped for the powerful forward to help bolster his squad options after fellow newcomers Tom Price and Will Witty underwent surgery this summer following injuries picked up at the back end of last season.
Kirsten, though, is a proven performer having come through the youth ranks at the Bulls to play 33 times for the club in Super Rugby.
Baxter clearly likes what he sees from his latest addition and having reviewed his game extensively, he feels the player will be a quality acquisition ahead of the 2019/20 season.
“We hope at this stage that he will bring a bit of hard-nosed physicality to us,” said the Chiefs’ Director of Rugby. “But alongside that, he also looks a good footballing rugby player. He’s a big lump, without being absolutely huge, who can play right across the back five of the scrum and he’s played a lot of minutes - particularly at lock - for the Bulls.
“When we he heard he was available, we looked at him close and there were a lot of characteristics that we liked in him. He has a very high work-rate, he’s physical and he carries well. Of course, there is a bit of fine-tuning we feel we can do on him, but he’s worked hard to get here, helping a lot with the visa process, and now we’re looking forward to working with and getting him up to speed for the new season.”
The Chiefs kick-off their new campaign on Saturday, September 21 with a Premiership Rugby Cup encounter at home to Bath, after which it will be three more weeks of cup action action Leicester Tigers, Worcester Warriors and Bristol Bears before the new Premiership season starts at home to Harlequins on October 19.
By that time, Kirsten should be well and truly up to speed with the ways and workings of the Chiefs, who will be looking to go one better than last season when they narrowly missed out to Saracens on picking up English rugby’s top prize for a second time.
Baxter knows he will be minus a number of his frontline stars at the beginning of the season due to this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, but there is still plenty of quality within the ranks in Devon to ensure the Chiefs can begin their season on the front foot.
Kirsten will be among those that Baxter will turn to, especially early on, and he’s confident the player will be able to adapt to his first taste of English rugby.
“He’s at the right age to come and we still see a bit of improvement in him,” added Baxter. “We’ve noticed previously with most Super Rugby forwards that have come here, they have been able to made some physical improvements to their game. That’s nothing against Super Rugby, but it you look at the way their season works - there is a lot of traveling away, the conditioning becomes a bit hit and miss and broken up, and their season is a lot shorter and sharper in comparison to ours, we like to this we will add more to him physically.
“There are other areas of his game that we will work on as well, but we know he gets through huge numbers already. What we will look to try and do is just make his game more efficient and allow those involvements he already has to become even bigger.”