NICK Schonert is the ‘real deal’ and among the best three or four tighthead props in the country, according to Worcester Warriors’ director of rugby Dean Ryan.

Schonert, who qualifies to play for England, was part of South Africa’s IRB Junior World Championship side in 2011.

The 23-year-old has played six competitive matches for Warriors since arriving in the summer and is known for his physical presence and technique at the set-piece.

Schonert scored his first try for Worcester in their 34-17 victory at play-off rivals London Scottish in the Greene King IPA Championship last month.

“I honestly think that Schonert is probably in the top three or four in this country,” said Ryan.

“We have been deprived of him a bit through injury and this is the first time he’s come into a professional environment.

“He’s spent a bit of time with the Cheetahs so this is quite a big step for him.”

Schonert joined Warriors from Super 15 side Free State Cheetahs and represented the province of KwaZulu-Natal as a youngster before stepping up to play for the Sharks at under 19 and under 21 levels.

Schonert moved to GWK Griquas in 2012 and played in the Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup before joining Cheetahs at the start of last season.

Ryan added: “Schonert is English-qualified and people are going to be looking at him because he’s the real deal.

“If you look at the front row of Val Rapava Ruskin, Gus Creevy and Schonert — it looks pretty menacing.

“When it gets to the real contest those guys know their job and I am really pleased with Schonert and the way that our front row is heading.”

Next up for Ryan’s men is today’s visit of the Cornish Pirates and the opportunity for Warriors to try to take another step closer to the top of the table.

While Schonert says he is well aware of the threat Cornish Pirates pose, he is adamant he has fully adapted to the English game.

Schonert said: “We know what to expect next time out and we know that they have a big pack that we will have to combat.

“But week-in week-out we are working hard to make sure we iron out all the small problems in our game.

“It hasn’t been a huge adjustment for me really since moving over here but there is definitely a difference in the style of rugby and the weather.

“I’m not used to playing in zero degrees or on such wet pitches so the style of play changes.

“It’s more physical but that suits me down to the ground and it’s the way that I love to play the game.”

This afternoon’s fixture at Sixways marks the half-way stage in the Championship’s domestic programme as Warriors bid for a place in the end-of-season play-offs.

Schonert said: “We are going into the business end of the season now and it’s really important that we stay focused and get the job done.

“It’s all about staying consistent for us now and making sure we keep improving and keep producing strong performances.

“When we make mistakes in matches we come out and are determined not to make the same mistakes again the next week.”

He added: “On a personal level, it would mean so much to finish top and have a chance to play in the Premiership.

“I’ve really bought into Dean’s plan here and what he sees as the future for this club.

“My goal is to get in the Premiership and I think that is what we deserve.”