Northampton target a Saintly GP fourth place

Northampton’s South African signing Juandre Kruger says that the Saints are aiming to finish in the top four of the Guinness Premiership this season.

Northampton’s bounce back from Premiership relegation to reinstatement this season and winning the European Challenge Cup has a number of pundits predicting a top-four finish for Saints including Kruger.

With recent signings like Shane Geraghty, Brian Mujati and Dan Vickerman in the summer, optimism is growing among fans that the club can finally challenge the big boys and reach the Guinness Premiership play-offs for the first time since 2003/04 under Wayne Smith.

The fans might be backing their team but the bookies have made the Saints the seventh favourites to win the Premiership, with most putting them at 10/1.

Kruger says that they are aiming for the play-offs and to reach the Heineken Cup quarter-finals after their first qualification in two seasons.

“I think we want to end up in the top four of the Premiership and then also the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup,” Kruger told the Northampon Chronicle.

“We’re just hoping to keep building on the previous season and hopefully everything will go well.”

South African Kruger left his home country last season and slotted straight into the Saints second row from the Blue Bulls in November. So far he has made 20 appearances to become a first-team regular, but he knows all that could soon change.

“I’m under pressure,” said Kruger, who got married in the summer.

“There are plenty of locks at the club. Dan Vickerman is joining us soon and we’ve got Lobbe, Courtney Lawes, Christian Day and myself.”

“It’s very important I play well week-in and week-out and that I be on top of my game.

“I’ve enjoyed pre-season. The hard work you put in there is like money in the bank. The harder you work in the pre-season, I’m sure it will pay off during the season.

“It’s just to your own benefit, something you need to do so you might as well enjoy it while you’re doing it. We’ve put in everything we could have put in during pre-season. The whole squad has worked hard.”

And as Saints prepare for Sunday’s Guinness Premiership opener against Worcester, Kruger has been impressed by how quickly the five new signings have settled in.

Kruger, who turns 24 on Sunday, said: “I think they have done exceptionally well to settle in quickly and adapt to the patterns and the training schedules.”

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