Guinness Premiership
Saracens respond to player cull rumours
February 25, 2009
Stormers defence coach Brendan Venter looks on at training, Bellville High Perfomance Centre, Cape Town, South Africa, February 17, 2009
Brendan Venter has met with the Saracens playing staff ahead of taking over at the end of the season © Getty Images

Saracens look set to offload a significant number of their current squad following talks between new director of rugby Brendan Venter and the playing staff.

Venter, a former Springbok centre and ex-London Irish coach, will take over from current chief Eddie Jones at the end of the season as the club takes on a more South African flavour. The club's management is influenced by a group of South African investors with links to the Sharks and Stormers Super 14 franchises, paving the way for Venter leave his position as Stormers defence coach and take up with Saracens.

Newspaper speculation about the upcoming player releases, with former All Black lock Chris Jack noted as a likely casualty, has prompted Sarries to issue a statement clarifying Venter's meetings with the players and reassuring fans that the club are acting their best interests, scrapping against the effects of the credit crunch.

"Brendan Venter, the incoming Director of Rugby, met with each of the players, one after the other, on Monday," said the statement. "He wanted to explain his plans for next season, openly and honestly, and to end any uncertainty. Many of the players were enthused and excited by what they heard; inevitably, some were disappointed.

"It would be completely inappropriate for the club to make any specific comment on these private meetings. Clearly, every supporter will have their own view on who should play and who should not. Everybody has their own favourites, however, in any sporting organisation, it can only be the view of the coach or Director of Rugby that counts. In the England rugby team, that is Martin Johnson's view. In the Saracens team this season, it is Eddie Jones' view. In the Saracens team for next season, it is Brendan Venter's view. There is no other way."

The Saracens management has also moved to point out their compassionate stance, issuing the players with the information now so as to allow them time to secure new contracts with other clubs.

"Some will question why these decisions have been made in February, and not at the end of the season," the statement continued. "Other clubs may choose to adjust their squads in April or May. Our logic is that, by being open and honest in February, we afford the affected players a realistic chance of finding a new club. Selfishly, the club could have waited until the end of the season, but most clubs will have finalised their 09-10 squads by then and, in all probability, the affected players would be left high and dry.

"The club is already working with the various players' agents and the PRA to assist in securing their futures, and, without exception, the club will act decently and honestly. This has been a difficult week, but the reality is that Saracens is not immune to the economic realities being faced by many companies across the country."


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