Saracens' success built on Venter's philosophy

Brendan Venter (Gallo Images)
Brendan Venter (Gallo Images)

London - Saracens success at European and domestic level is built on a culture and philosophy instilled in the English club by their former South African director of rugby Brendan Venter, the chief executive Heath Harvey said on Friday.

Saracens are bidding to repeat their double success of last year having won the European crown last weekend, beating Clermont, they play the team they beat in last year's Premiership final Exeter in Saturday's domestic title semi-finals.

South Africa-born Harvey, who replaced Edward Griffiths as CEO in 2015, said the ethos and spirit imbued in the club by Venter -- who was at the club for two years from 2009-11 first as a consultant then as director of rugby - remained as strong as ever.

Harvey cites a recent example as typical of Venter - who is also South Africa's defence coach - the human being.

"He is a doctor by trade and still practising," Harvey told a small group of journalists after speaking at the Deltatre Sports Industry Breakfast Club at London's BT Centre.

"I heard him on television the other day on a panel where he was participating by phone.

"The presenter said we are going to take a break and be back in five minutes with Brendan Venter... but Brendan interrupted and said 'No I won't guys I have a waiting room full of patients who need me' and put down the phone.

"So this culture and spirit in Saracens comes from Brendan through and through absolutely.

"He is such a caring person and what I just said is a perfect working example of him either 'I can stay on the phone and be a rock star or stay in the real world and be with the needy people who are waiting for me outside'.

"Thats the nature of the guy... it comes from the heart."

Harvey said 47-year-old Venter - who was a member of the Springboks side that so memorably won the 1995 World Cup which they hosted - had brought his sense of community to the club.

"We have a common purpose supported by a set of values to go out and sign the best people in the world who will fit into the culture and the team," said Harvey.

"We work disproportionately hard to keep them (the players) too.

"When we recruit we interview the player with their wife or a member of their family and the caring starts at the interview stage because we want them to fit into the club.

"It is a bit like the NFL have the stability matrix we work really hard to get people who will fit into the club and the culture.

"To keep them there it's about stability and making them part of the group.

"Stability in coaching staff and players is what drives performances."

Harvey, who has maintained the tradition of bringing in people from outside rugby to talk to the players such as record-breaking jockey AP McCoy, says they ensure the family of the player are fully integrated too.

"We involve families enormously," he said.

"There are clubs who don't allow wives to drive up the driveway of the training ground.

"At ours you will see wives every day because they are having mentoring from personal development people or trying to start business, we are inclusive.

"Then we work with players on life after rugby and two thirds of players have either completed or in the process of doing a degree which is an incredible statistic."

Harvey says Saracens have an unusual recruitment policy not based totally on playing ability.

"We work on rounding the person so if somebody says we have no interests apart from rugby more often than not we may well say we don't think you're for here," said Harvey.

"Good people make good rugby players and good rugby players make good sports.

"Our strapline is we treat them incredibly well and expect them to work incredibly hard.

"Venter's culture is as strong if not stronger today then the day he arrived."

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