Saracens 12-6 London Irish, Aviva Premiership, January 8
Venter predicts bright future for Saracens
January 9, 2011
Saracens' Owen Farrell slots a kick, Saracens v London Irish, Aviva Premiership, Vicarage Road, Watford, England, January 9, 2010
Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell booted his side to victory at Vicarage Road © Getty Images

Saracens' director of rugby Brendan Venter signed off from his post with a narrow victory over London Irish and with a prediction that the club's future was in safe hands.

Venter saw his side climb to second in the table with a 12-6 win against the Exiles in what was his last game in charge before returning to South Africa with his family, although he will still be involved at the club as a technical director.

"The problem at Saracens was too much chopping and changing. We have a five-year plan in place, and it is ongoing," said the outspoken Rugby World Cup winner. "I may no longer be rugby director, but I'll be in telephone contact regularly, and I will be flying back to England regularly to attend games.

"We have academy players pressing for each position in the team, so it's not about bringing in some big-name stars, it's now about the development of the team from within. As I expected of my former club, this was a tough game. Irish are a good side, very organised, and they never lose badly, it's always just by a few points.

"But if you look at our fly-half, Owen Farrell, he is going to be special, and that really excites me. We lost a top international fly-half when Derick Hougaard was injured out of the season, and along came a teenager of this quality, a very talented boy who is learning to be a Premiership fly-half."

Saracens' new rugby director is Venter's former number two, Mark McCall, while former rugby league and union international Andy Farrell - Owen's father - moves up to head coach. Gavin Henson made another cameo appearance off the bench for the hosts, but Venter insists that people are expecting too much too soon from the Lions and Wales star.

"Gavin Henson is only beginning to know what Saracens is about," insisted Venter. "We are about intensity, and we are 18 months into that process, whereas Gavin has only been here a few weeks. We had so many very talented young players, but moments of magic are not what they're judged on. It's their intensity and growing as a team. Once he has settled in, it will emerge whether he has adjusted to this to everyone's satisfaction, including his own."

And Venter, who has had his run-ins with the rugby authorities over some of his post-match comments while at Sarries, also took the chance to pay tribute to the media who cover the game in England. "I leave very happy to say in my time the English rugby media, I have never been misquoted, and that's something I really appreciate."

Irish head coach Toby Booth was disappointed to see his side suffer a 10th straight loss but believes they are not too far away from ending their miserable run. "That's miles closer to ending this run," he said. "The Premiership is tough, and you have to work very hard. You need energy and intensity to put things right, and we have displayed that in the last three games.

"I do wonder at some of the questions I'm asked. We don't go out to throw a game. It's just that you need to deal with setbacks. We simply have to keep on track, keep doing the right things.

"If you look at the statistics from this game for both teams, the error count, the missed penalties, the turnovers, all virtually the same. That means that games as tight as this turn on little breaks. But teams like Toulouse, Munster, Leinster and Stade Francais don't change the way they play, and nor will we. We play with ball in hand, and that will inevitably lead to errors.

"We face Ospreys in the Heineken Cup next weekend. If we don't field the right team, we'll get thrashed. But we do need to get momentum to get back up on the horse and remain positive."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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