Hargreaves relishing Sarries challenge
July 5, 2012
South African international Alistair Hargreaves will play for Sarries next term © Getty Images
Saracens newcomer Alistair Hargreaves is fully aware he faces a tough challenge to break into the first-team ahead of their season opener against London Irish on September 1 at Twickenham.
The 26-year-old Hargreaves arrives at Sarries from the Durban-based Sharks where his performances earned him four Springboks caps. A lengthy injury lay-off last term saw him exiled from the international side and he is hoping to re-ignite his career in the Aviva Premiership.
However, with club captain Steve Borthwick, England lock Mouritz Botha and the up-and-coming George Kruis all impressing last term, Hargreaves is under no illusions as to just how hard it'll be to establish himself as one of the club's two first choice locks.
"They are great players and all three of them had exceptional seasons," Hargreaves told ESPN. "Steve is a tried and tested at international level and is the workhorse of our team as skipper. Mouritz has done exceptionally well in the last few years and rightfully claimed the England jersey. George was recognised at the end of season awards and there's a lot of competition but that usually brings out the best in players.
"With regards to my chances, it's not important if I start the first or second game, it's about offering as much as possible for the team and after time put my hand up where and when they need me."
With Sarries also back in the Heineken Cup next season, Hargreaves is also excited by the prospect of playing against Europe's best but maintains the battle for Premiership honours is equally attractive. "The Heineken Cup is an incredible level of rugby and there's no doubt about that. Previously there might've been a gap between Super Rugby and the northern hemisphere but that has all levelled out now. The Heineken Cup is a great advert for the unbelievable brand of rugby that is getting played in Europe at the moment and I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into that challenge.
"But in the last two or three seasons Premiership rugby has grown in South Africa and that is probably in part due to Saracens. That, coupled with the number of South African players playing over here, means there is a huge interest in the league. It's a special competition and it's a different kind of rugby to what we are used to in Super Rugby. "
Hargreaves made his latest international appearance last summer, having turned out for the Boks against Sarries back in 2009 when his new side won 24-23, and despite opting to further his career overseas, he is still hoping that he catches Heyneke Meyer's eye.
"I still aspire to play for the Springboks and it will be harder here," Hargreaves said. "I was injured in the first half of last year so I spent that time off the field and now I have an opportunity to experience a different kind of rugby in what is sometimes a forward orientated game and that will hopefully stand me in good stead for the future with the Boks as a more all rounded player."
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Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.