Sharks to go to Saracens for pre-season friendly

2013-12-09 00:00

THE Sharks will travel to London late next month to meet Saracens in a high- profile friendly ahead of their Super Rugby campaign.

The Sharks have confirmed the pre-season friendly, which will be played at the Saracens’ Allianz Park, adding that due to “the sensitivity around Madiba’s passing, we will release further details at an appropriate time”.

Details of the game have been published in London. The friendly will be on Saturday, January 25, three weeks before the Sharks open their Super Rugby challenge against the Bulls in Durban on February 15. A week later the Sharks will again be at home to the Wellington-based Hurricanes.

The January 25 match in London has been billed as a contest between the Premiership log-leaders and the Currie Cup champions, an opportunity to test the strengths of rugby in the northern and southern hemisphere.

Saracens has strong South African links. Sharks CEO John Smit spent a couple of seasons with the club while Brendon Venter is their part-time technical adviser and a host of their players are former South Africans.

Saracens are expecting the Sharks to field a full-strength outfit, though whether head coach will want to risk his first-choice Springboks in a tough outing in foreign conditions a couple of weeks after they have started pre-season training is doubtful.

Mark McCall, Saracens’ director of rugby, believes they will.

“Our players will enjoy the challenge presented by a full-strength Sharks team, packed with Springboks like Bismarck du Plessis and Francois Steyn, and it’s sure to be a fantastic rugby occasion at Allianz Park.”

Smit told the Saracens website that the venture would be exciting pre-season opportunity for the squad.

“It will be a wonderful experience for our players to travel to London and play at Allianz Park.

“The match is a crucial part of our preparations for the new Super XV season and it will also be the first match in charge for our new coach, Jake White.”

The match has been approved by SA Rugby, and will be presented for approval by the RFU Board this week.

Saracens are also likely to field a water-down team.

The day after the Sharks’ match (January 26) Saracens will host Newcastle Falcons in a LV-Cup match at Allianz Park.

“It will be all hands to the pump … we’ve won both pool matches so far and we’re confident the squad will cope with the twin challenge.”

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