“This guy is supposed to be a hard-ass dude and he’s just here on a jolly.”
Ben Foden has said that Dylan Hartley punching Northampton Saints teammate Brian Mujati resulted in the latter becoming a “much better player” for the Premiership club.
Mujati signed for Northampton from South African Super Rugby side the Stormers in 2009, having proven he was a top-quality prop having won 12 caps for the Springboks.
However, Foden said Mujati had a poor attitude when joined Northampton, and Foden explained to RugbyPass how Hartley took matters into his own hands to approve that attitude.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 7, 2021
“This is one of my favourite stories about Dyls being a captain, because this needed to happen.”
“Muj, I hope he won’t mind me saying, when he first turned up at Northampton he was there on a jolly. He was like, ‘I’m happy to sit on the bench.’
“We had signed this South African, big unit, he was stacked for a front row. We were like, ‘him and (Soane) Tonga’uiha are going to change the way we play the game.’
“And he turned up, and he was not interested.
“It started to really sink in with people: ‘Who is this guy, sitting on the bus saying, ‘I’m happy to get paid my money and sit on the bench.’ I know Dyls heard this and was like, ‘this guy needs to be sorted out.’”
‘Hartley was ready to throw down.’
Things eventually came to a head between Hartley and Mujati during a training session when the Northampton captain got a little bit physical with his fellow front-rower.
“One day in training, Dyls is being a bit niggly. He keeps niggling and trying to get Muj to bite, and eventually Muj bites, goes for Dyls.
“But Muj doesn’t realise all this backed up aggression in Dyls, who is annoyed because he’s the captain of the team and this guy is in his front row, supposed to be a hard-ass dude, and he’s just here on a jolly.
“Muj sort of goes towards Dyls to threaten it, and Dyls doesn’t even hesitate: boom, wallops him straight in the eye, splits him straight across the eye.
“I’m in the middle like ‘Woah, what is going on!’ and Muj is just shocked. You can just see Dyls has got that glint in his eye, like, ‘I’m going to kill you.’
“Muj is a big dude, and Dyls is a big dude, but I think if you’re looking as an outsider you think Muj is going to kick Dyls’ ass, but not that day.
“Dyls was ready to throw down and Muj was shocked, split his eye. I was in between, telling Muj to go see the physio and Dyls to calm down, get back into training.
“I’m telling you now, from that moment, I don’t know whether Dyls spoke to Muj after, but there was something switched inside Brian that made him realise he was there for a bigger job than what he thought,” Foden commented.
The Zimbabwean-born prop ultimately spent four seasons with the Saints and played a crucial role in helping the side reach the Heineken Cup final in 2011 and the Premiership Rugby final in 2013.