Aviva Premiership
Joubert hails McCall impact
ESPNscrum Staff
March 24, 2011
Ernst Joubert was named Aviva Premiership Player of the Month for February © Getty Images

As the sharp end of the Aviva Premiership approaches, Saracens are lurking with intent towards the top of the table, a home-semi-final within reach and confidence on their side after a run of five straight victories.

The north London club, poised for a move to the new Barnet Copthall Stadium at the end of the season, do not look out of place at the summit, such has been the transformation in the last two seasons.

Previously they were the league's great underachievers, capable of the sublime and ridiculous. Under former director of rugby Brendan Venter and latterly Mark McCall the picture altered however, with a new, steely mindset imbuing their performances and the off-field 'culture' playing a major role.

No.8 Ernst Joubert, the Aviva Premiership Player of the Month for February and the scorer of two tries in last season's dramatic final loss to Leicester, has been a crucial part of the side since his arrival from the Lions and he shares club's new outlook - insisting that Venter's departure in January has not affected their belief.

"We've been very professional," he said. "We want to win cups, we want to win trophies and there's a winning mentality. It's been there for the 20-22 months that I've been there. Brendan started it and everyone bought into it. Close games that you would lose if you didn't have that mentality start swinging in your favour.

"Mark McCall is a brilliant guy. Brendan gave the players freedom in the structure and Mark does exactly the same. All the players know exactly what is expected of us and with Brendan leaving, nothing changed. Everyone bought into the plan for the start and hopefully that's the culture we'll take forward at Saracens. "

Sarries currently sit second in the table and face Newcastle on Sunday, with Northampton's post-Christmas implosion and a prized win over Leicester at Welford Road making them look every-inch title contenders.

"It's been amazing, obviously we did it [win at Leicester] last year too, and because we slipped up earlier in the year we realised that we have to go and win these big games," Joubert said. "We've proved to everyone that we're catching form in the latter part of the competition. It's Leicester, a big team, and a big confidence builder for us.

"Everybody's chasing for that No.1 spot and so are we. We've been playing well and it's such a close competition that you can't really afford to slip up. We had a couple earlier in the season and that hopefully won't happen again. With the chase being so close we need to focus on every game."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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