Saracens v South Africa, Wembley, November 17
Sarries play host to Springboks
November 16, 2009
Wembley played host to Saracens' Guinness Premiership clash with Northampton earlier this season © Getty Images
South Africa will look to get their end-of-year tour back on track against Saracens at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Springboks were humbled by France in Toulouse on Friday night while the tourists' midweek side were shocked by Premiership side Leicester in their tour opener earlier this month. As a result the Tri-Nations champions are under increasing pressure to get back to winning ways and are unlikely to treat this fixture lightly.
Saracens are setting the pace in this season's Premiership with seven straight victories and while their European Challenge Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup form has not been as impressive they are sure to ask questions of their illustrious visitors. The Watford-based side are no strangers to Wembley having attracted just shy of 45,000 fans to the stadium for their Premiership clash with Northampton in September and so this latest return will hold no fear for them. And with a host of South Africans in their line-up they will not be found wanting for motivation.
The two sides gathered for a relaxed dinner on Sunday but a subsequent spat between the camps has since added a little niggle to the fixture. Saracens coach Brendan Venter was asked to leave a South Africa training session in St Albans on Monday amidst spying allegations that were firmly refuted by the former Springbok.
Springboks coach Peter de Villiers has made four changes to the side that were upset by the Tigers with a new front row charged with revitalising the faltering Springboks pack. Leinster prop CJ Van der Linde starts the game alongside Munster-bound Wian du Preez and hooker Adriaan Strauss. The other change sees Jean Deysel start in the back row with flanker Dewald Potgieter, who captained the Emerging Springboks against the British & Irish Lions, handed the honour of leading the side.
"The main focus of Tuesday's game is to get the entire tour back on track, to get that win," Potgieter told Rugby365. "And from the viewpoint of the coach, Peter de Villiers, the most important is to get a win under the belt and produce a good performance. "It [winning] certainly will be more important than individuals wanting to play themselves into a Test spot.
"When the team does well it is much easier for individuals to shine. The main goal is to focus on Tuesday and not on Saturday's game."
Rugby World Cup winner Wikus van Heerden will captain Saracens and will be joined by fellow Springbok internationals Neil de Kock, Derick Hougaard and Schalk Brits in the matchday squad. England Saxons stars Brad Barritt, Noah Cato, Alex Goode and Andy Saull will also get the chance to test themselves on the international stage.
"It's going to be a fantastic occasion," commented Saracens director of rugby Brendan Venter who has steered his side to the top of the Premiership. "To have the chance to face an international side is an honour but to face the world champions at Wembley Stadium is something very special. It's a great opportunity for the players in our side and there will also be a few familiar faces on either side."
Van Heerden, capped 14 times by the Springboks, echoed his coach's sentiments and urged his side to raise their game. "I don't expect anything less than international standards; it's definitely going to be a tough one," he said. "I think that also is a reason why we, as Saracens, are really looking forward to it. It's a great opportunity for us to show what a quality side we are and how we measure up against the Springboks."
Saracens: Michael Horak, Noah Cato, Kameli Ratuvou, Brad Barritt, Michael Tagicakibau, Derick Hougaard, Neil de Kock, Rhys Gill, Ethienne Reynecke, Richard Skuse, Mouritz Botha, Hugh Vyvyan, Wikus van Heerden (c), Justin Melck, Ernst Joubert
Replacements: Schalk Brits, Carlos Nieto, George Kruis, Andy Saull, Kevin Barrett, Alex Goode, Rodd Penney
South Africa: Earl Rose, Odwa Ndungane, Juan de Jongh, Wynand Olivier, Jongi Nokwe, Ruan Pienaar, Heini Adams, Wian du Preez, Adriaan Strauss, CJ van der Linde, Danie Rossouw, Andries Bekker, Jean Deysel, Dewald Potgieter, Ashley Johnson
Replacements: Bandise Maku, Heinke van der Merwe, Alistair Hargreaves, Davon Raubenheimer, Francois Hougaard, Meyer Bosman, Riaan Viljoen