Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

McCall: Sarries defied sickness bug

Mark McCall revealed that Saracens defied a bug that had swept through their ranks to book their place in next Saturday's Aviva Premiership final with a 29-24 victory over Northampton.

A host of players who were affected by the sickness were involved in the semi-final between the fierce rivals at Franklin's Gardens, yet Saracens still produced a display of customary belligerence to reach the Twickenham showpiece.

McCall, the club's director of rugby, marvelled at the success of his team in "hunting people down" despite being stricken by the bug.

"We had a mass of sickness around the squad this week. Schalk Brits was in hospital for two days and lost seven or eight kilograms," McCall said.

"There were 10 other people who had it, but you wouldn't have known. Chris Ashton was among the worst and Brad Barritt has been in a mess, but you wouldn't have been able to see that.

"You add the bug to the occasion and it tells you the sort of group we have. That was us out there hunting people down, getting off the floor to make tackle after tackle. It was a performance to be proud of.

"That was a Titanic semi-final of unbelievable intensity. We're thrilled to come out on the right side of it."

Saracens' determination was typified by man of the match Jacques Burger, who repeatedly flattened Saints attackers.

"It was Jacques' 100th game for the club and people forget he missed 20 months because of a knee injury and was told he shouldn't play again," McCall said.

"Seeing him give every ounce of his body out there inspires his team-mates. It wasn't just him, everyone put in an incredible effort - and they needed to."

The first of the day's semi-finals was a heavyweight clash but it lacked thrills with three tries a product of line-out drives and the fourth a kick chase. It was ultimately settled by the boot of Owen Farrell, who finished with 19 points.

"Owen showed he is a world-class fly-half out there and showed he has a big match mentality," McCall said.

"He was magnificent in how he controlled the team. His place kicking was magnificent as well."

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder took defeat on the chin and refused to condemn Saracens' limited ambition.

"We knew what their plan would be and they did what we expected, but they do it very, very well," Mallinder said.

"At the breakdown they were physical. Those Vunipola brothers….once they get over the ball their stomachs are touching the ground already. It's near impossible to move them.

"Everyone decides how they want to play and Saracens have gone down their route. That's the game.

"They do it very, very well. To become champions you have to beat all styles and we didn't get over this hurdle."


From Belfast Telegraph