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Brits preparing for grudge match

Schalk Brits admits Saturday's Aviva Premiership final against Northampton is Saracens' biggest "grudge match" as two contrasting cultures collide at Twickenham.

Springboks hooker Brits revealed needle and niggle between the two rivals dates back to September 2009, when Saracens saw off Saints at Wembley.

And the 33-year-old free-running front-rower expects to be spurred on at Twickenham by his long-standing rivalry with England and Northampton counterpart Dylan Hartley.

"It's definitely a grudge match for us," said former Stormers hooker Brits.

"There has never been any love lost between the two sides: that's about all I can say.

"I think it's two very good sides that try to push the boundaries.

"Both sides have different philosophies in the way they treat people, and go about their business.

"And I think it's a big clash of two very proud clubs."

Hartley is still battling for full fitness after two months sidelined through shoulder trouble, aiming to return for both Saturday's league showpiece and England's New Zealand tour.

Brits said the Northampton captain made an immediate impression in just his second Saracens appearance, when the men in black edged out the Saints 19-16 at Wembley in September 2009.

Livewire front-rower Brits claimed the winning try when Saracens sneaked past Saints 21-19 in the Premiership semi-final that season.

Northampton stunned Saracens with a 27-13 victory at Allianz Park in last term's Premiership semi-final, as Mark McCall's men bowed out of European and league action at the last-four stage.

Still smarting from Saturday's 23-6 Heineken Cup final defeat to Toulon, Brits said Saracens are gunning for revenge for last season's league loss to Saints.

Saracens are chasing their first major title since 2011, aiming to deny Northampton their maiden Premiership crown in the process.

"Dylan welcomed me into Premiership rugby quite quickly in my first game against Northampton for Saracens," said Brits.

"So from there on my love for this clash has always brought the best out in me, if I can say it like that.

"I don't mind if he's playing or not, but in essence that's how my love for Northampton started - and by the way Chris Ashton as well, but now he's playing for us!

"He's a tough competitor I must say, but I would rather play with Chris than against him."

Brits believes Saracens' well-documented team bonding trips could rile rivals like Northampton, but he said that approach is vital to the Allianz Park club's success.

"That rivalry would certainly make it sweeter if we win," he said.

"One of the things about our set-up, we're not only trying to win, we're trying to create a place where there will become a way that Saracens do things.

"I'm not saying there's a right and a wrong way, but in 10 years' time I want people to come past my house, and they will phone me and I will phone them.

"And I'll remember more the trips to Munich and to New York than some of the games, if I can say that.

"It's getting tight as a group.

"There are different ways to create success but I love the way we do things."


From Belfast Telegraph