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SaracensSaracens beat Exeter Chiefs to win the Premiership final and become the first English side to complete a domestic and European double since 2004.

Exeter, in their first play-off final, were blown away by a dominant first half from Sarries, who led 23 / 6 through Duncan Taylor and Chris Wyles scores.

Jack Yeandle and Jack Nowell crossed after the break as a rejuvenated Chiefs reduced the deficit to 3 points.

But Alex Goode’s late try secured the title for the defending champions.

Victory also means Mark McCall’s side, who won the European Champions Cup 2 weeks ago, become the first English club since Wasps 12 years ago to win the top-flight and European titles in the same season.

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European Rugby Champions CupSaracens, Northampton, Exeter, Wasps and Leicester have joined 3 French teams in the European Rugby Champions Cup last 8.

Premiership title holders Sarries will host Saints, and Wasps will welcome Exeter to the Ricoh Arena.

Leicester face Stade Francais at home, having already played them twice in the pool stages, and Racing 92 will play reigning European champions Toulon.

It is the 1st time there is no Pro12 representation in the last 8 of the competition.

Sarries, Leicester and Racing 92 guaranteed themselves a home tie in the quarterfinals last weekend, while Wasps joined them after winning Pool 5 on Saturday, with 3-time defending champions and Toulon joining them as one of the best runners-up.

Stade Francais were confirmed as 1 of the 3 best runners-up after they beat the Tigers with a bonus point on Sunday, but the other 2 places went down to the wire.

Northampton’s win over Scarlets on Saturday was enough to see them through as runners-up in Pool 3, and Exeter came through as winners of Pool 2 on points difference after beating Ospreys.

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Schalk Burger

Schalk Burger

Saracens are delighted to announce the signing of South African international flanker Schalk Burger for the 2016 / 2017 season.

The world class Springbok loose forward will link-up with the reigning Aviva Premiership champions for the 2016 / 2017 season after signing a 2-year deal with the Allianz Park club.

Renowned as 1 of world rugby’s finest loose forwards, Burger has captained South Africa during his stellar 12-year international career and is a former IRB World Player of the year. He has won 86 caps for the Springboks and holds the record for the most tries (14) for a loose forward for his country.

Burger will link up with Saracens after a spell with Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath and Super Rugby’s Stormers.

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SaracensSaracens have appointed England Under 20 head coach Ian Peel to their staff after reaching an agreement with the Rugby Football Union.

The 39-year-old will retain a part-time role as a scrum coach with the England senior squad for the Six Nations.

“Ian’s track record of developing talent is very impressive,” Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said.

“He fits into the club’s model of providing opportunities to some of the brightest coaches available.”

Former prop forward Peel moved into coaching in 2006 after spending 8 years with Newcastle as a player, making 122 Premiership appearances.

Peel has been involved in the England Under 20 programme since 2013, initially as assistant coach, and helped the side to back-to-back Junior World Championship titles in 2013 and 2014 and the Under 20 Six Nations title in 2015.

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Nick Schonert

Nick Schonert (from his twitter account)

Saracens continued their dominant start to their Aviva Premiership campaign in the 1st match of the day in the Twickenham double header on Saturday (28 November).

They put in a fine performance, scoring 6 tries against Worcester Warriors in the game which was long serving No 8 Ernst Joubert’s final 1 for the club. Joubert got to lead Saracens out onto the field in his 161st game for the club.

Veteran Charlie Hodgson converted 1 of Chris Ashton’s tries to reach a wonderful milestone of 2 500 Premiership points. The try was created by the fancy footwork of South African hooker Schalk Brits who also scored a try of his own.

However, another South African, Worcester Warrior’s prop Nick Schonert will not have fond memories of the Twickenham outing as he was probably left scarred for life with a terrible gash to his face. It is not clear how this happened but it looks like he was on the receiving end of nasty rucking and on Saturday night Schonert tweeted a photo of the gaping wound and alluded to it being caused by 1 of the Saracens player’s boots.

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Nick de Jager

Nick de Jager

The Vodacom Blue Bulls have signed Saracens loose forward Nick de Jager on a 1-year contract with immediate effect.

De Jager, the former Maties No 8 who left South Africa to join Saracens 2 years ago, has been signed as loose forward cover for the ABSA Currie Cup season and joined the team on Monday to start with his new side.

De Jager is a big, powerful ball carrier and is highly rated, with Saracens releasing him to continue his development in Pretoria and hopefully get some game time ahead of next year’s Vodacom Super Rugby season.

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CrusadersSaracens RugbyAn ambitious plan to stage a match between New Zealand’s Crusaders Knights and English Premiership club Saracens in New Orleans has been cancelled.

The planned fixture on 1 August at New Orleans’ 70 000-capacity SuperDome was designed to capitalise on growing US interest in Rugby Union.

However, the fixture – just like the Independence Cup match, an encounter between the newly formed NRFL Rough Riders and English Premiership giants Leicester Tigers – has become a victim of the ongoing battle between USA Rugby and RugbyLaw.

USA Rugby is the recognised national controlling body registered with World Rugby, while RugbyLaw is planning to launch a new professional league, the NRFL, in the United States.

However, USA Rugby declined to sanction the encounter between Tigers and the Rough Riders – because the Rough Riders are not registered with USA Rugby.

Now the dispute between USA Rugby and RugbyLaw have claimed another victim.

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SaracensOwen Farrell helped himself to a personal tally of 18 points, as Saracens got their hands back on the Premiership trophy, beating Bath 28 / 16 and becoming the 1st side to finish outside the Top 2 in the regular season and go on to be crowned champions.

Saracens got off to a flying start as flyhalf Farrell touched down after only 6 minutes and England teammate Jamie George followed him over the whitewash shortly after.

And Chris Wyles added a 3rd try as Saracens went into the break 25 / 3 ahead, Bath having just a solitary George Ford penalty on hte board.

But Bath, appearing in their 1st Premiership Final since 2004, came out stronger after the break and Jonathan Joseph’s try and the boot of Ford got them back into the contest as they trailed 16 / 25 with a quarter of the game to go.

However, man-of-the-match Ford stretched Saracens lead with a penalty and from then on Mark McCall’s men never looked like relinquishing their lead as they got their hands back on the trophy for the 1st time since 2011.

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jacquesburger

Jacques Burger

If Saturday’s Aviva Premiership final is being billed as “Beauty against the Beast” – the carefree attacking play of Bath’s young backs against the suffocating Saracens defence – then there is little doubt which individual player represents the latter in this analogy.

When Sarries are at their best – when their defence is at its most intense and brutal – flanker Jacques Burger invariably leads from the front.

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avivalogo2Bath are looking to end their 19-year wait for a top-flight title as they face Saracens in the Premiership final.

The Blue, Black and Whites have selected the same team that thumped Leicester in the semi-finals last week.

Saracens, winners in 2011 and beaten finalists last season, have reached the final for the fourth time in six years.

Like Bath, Sarries have also named an unchanged side, meaning 18 of England’s World Cup training squad will be in action at Twickenham on Saturday.

Their only change from the squad that won at Northampton Saints – the team that beat them in last year’s final – comes among the replacements, with hooker Schalk Brits returning after illness.

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Aviva Premiership LogoOwen Farrell produced a nerveless kicking display as Saracens avenged last year’s extra-time defeat to Northampton Saints by booking their place in the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final once more.

David Strettle got Sarries off to a flying start but Northampton’s pack responded to win a Penalty Try, before the 2 sides traded scores early in the 2nd half through Jamie George and Tom Wood.

But it was the battle between England flyhalves Farrell and Stephen Myler that ultimately settled this semi-final, with the Sarries man besting his counterpart by 19 points to 14 from the tee – including an ice-cool 77th minute penalty to take the game out of the defending champions’ reach.

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CrusadersSaracens RugbyNew Zealand’s Crusaders announced on Wednesday they will play English Premiership club Saracens in New Orleans on 1 August, in a fixture designed to capitalise on growing US interest in rugby.

The Crusaders, 7-time Super Rugby champions, said they will field their development side for the 1-off fixture at the 70 000 capacity SuperDome.

Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said the match, to be called The Hemispheres Cup, was a rare north-south club clash.

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Aviva PremiershipEnglish Premiership organisers have confirmed the teams and venues for the 2015 Aviva Premiership Semi-finals.

Both Semi-finals will be played next Saturday on 23 May 2015 and the kick-off times will be at 14:00 BST (15:00 SA Time) and 17:00 BST (18:00 SA Time) and both will be broadcast on BT Sport in the UK.

Northampton Saints will host Saracens at Franklin’s Gardens in the 1st Semi-final.

In the 2nd Semi-final Bath will host Leicester Tigers at the Recreation Ground.

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Brad Barritt

Brad Barritt

Saracens and England centre Brad Barritt has committed his future to the club signing a long-term deal at Allianz Park.

The 28-year old is the latest Saracen to commit his future to the north Londoners, following the likes of Marcelo Bosch, Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and George Kruis in signing contract extensions.

On signing his new deal, Barritt said: “I’m absolutely delighted to stay a part of the Saracens family. I consider this place home and I’m really looking forward to the years ahead with this fantastic club.

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European Rugby Champions Cup2 Time defending champions Toulon will bid for an unprecedented hat-trick of European titles against Clermont after beating Leinster 25 / 20 following extra-time in Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final.

Toulon’s Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny kicked 6 penalties and converted a Bryan Habana interception try for a personal haul of 20 points in an ultimately thrilling match that went to extra-time after finishing 12 / 12 after regulation time.

Leinster had Ian Madigan to thank for 5 penalties, while Sean O’Brien scored a late try that made for a nerve-racking climax.

Turnovers, ruck penalties and handling errors saw out a tight if uninspiring, pressure-laden 1st-half during which Toulon failed to convert their territorial domination into points.

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European Rugby Champions CupThe European Rugby Champions Cup semifinals takes place this weekend.

On Saturday, Clermont Auvergne host Saracens at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne at 16:15 French Time (15:15 BST, 14:15 GMT).

On Sunday, Toulon host Leinster at Stade Felix-Mayol, Toulon at 16:15 French Time (15:15 BST, 14:15 GMT).

 

Clemont Auvergne vs Saracens:

Saracens knocked Clermont Auvergne for 6 at the European Cup semifinal stage last season, will it be repeat or redemption this time around?

The 46 / 6 triumph booked McCall’s men a place in last seasons’ Millennium Stadium finale against Toulon. They set new semifinal records for the most points scored by a team (46), the largest winning margin (40) and the most tries scored (6). Surely lightning cannot strike twice between the Pool 1 rivals, who each scored a victory over each other in the early Rounds.

Saracens have their defensive leader, Brad Barritt, back in the side after a knee injury kept him out of action for a month. England playmaker Owen Farrell crossed for 1 of Saracens’ 6 tries last year and is set to make an impact off the bench after he was sidelined for 3 months in the last meeting between the pair.

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European Rugby Champions CupA bumper weekend of European cup action saw the semifinalists for the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup decided across 3 days.

After an enthralling set of games on Sunday, we now know that Clermont will play Saracens in Saint-Etienne, while Toulon will face Leinster in Marseille in what are set to be 2 titanic battles.

Champions Toulon remain in the hunt for what would be a 3rd successive European title. No side has ever achieved that before but Toulon unquestionably have the players to do so.

They were too smart and too strong for a stubborn Wasps outfit at the Stade Mayol on Sunday, winning with Juan Smith and Bryan Habana watching on from the stands due to injuries. Both are expected however to be in contention for the semifinals.

Bakkies Botha did start in the second row as Toulon won 14 out of 15 lineouts, contributing to their success. Another trophy or 2 for the cabinet remain on the horizon for the Springbok legend ahead of his retirement. Michael Claassens was on the bench.

Defeat for Wasps of course also meant defeat for Ashley Johnson, as the former Cheetahs back rower’s side fell short despite a late rally in the 2nd half. Twice European champions in the past, Wasps are certainly on the up again.

Toulon will face Leinster in the semifinals after Zane Kirchner’s side knocked out Francois Louw’s Bath in Dublin. The former Bulls back was called from the bench early on at the Aviva Stadium and nearly scored a try in the corner not long after his arrival.

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European Rugby Champions CupWith 3 of the 4 quarterfinals taking place on french soil, and all 3 of those against English opposition it could feel somewhat like the Hundred year war for the Premiership sides.

In the only non Anglo-French encounter, Bath travel to Leinster while the remaining fixtures sees Clermont Auvergne take on Premiership table-toppers Northampton Saints, Racing Metro will play last year’s finalists Saracens, and finally champions Toulon will face Wasps.

The record books show that in 72 quarterfinal encounters in Europe’s top flight, 54 have been won by the home club – a staggering 75% success rate for those sides on home soil.

Premiership clubs make up half the Champions Cup quarterfinalists, although all have to play away from home.

English teams have a 20% success rate away from home in the tournament, winning only 4 times in 20 quarterfinal games to date.

For the 9 away matches against French opposition, the success rate is as low as 11%, with only 1 win – Northampton Saints’ 7 / 6 victory over Biarritz Olympique in San Sebastian in 2007.

The only other English away victories in the last 8 have been Leicester Tigers over Leinster Rugby at Lansdowne Road in 2005, Bath at Leicester in 2006 and Saracens against Ulster at Kingspan Stadium last season.

The 3 French clubs in the Champions Cup quarterfinals have never lost at home in the last 8 of Europe’s top flight.

Toulon and Clermont have won home quarterfinals in the past 2 seasons, while Racing Metro have reached the knockout stage for the 1st time in their history.

The odds are definitely stacked against the English clubs, but that does not mean that any of the French teams will take them lightly.

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Saracens

Saracens, LV Cup champions

Ben Spencer kicked a last-ditch penalty to win the LV Cup for Saracens.

After a pulsating second half which saw 5 tries scored, Spencer had the kick with the scores at 20 / 20 with time up on the clock and the scrumhalf kept his nerve to win the trophy for the 1st time in the club’s history.

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Edward Griffiths

Edward Griffiths

The Board of Saracens and Edward Griffiths announced that, following seven very successful years with the club, the CEO will be leaving at the end of the season to pursue new opportunities.

“After seven years as CEO Edward is moving on,” Saracens Chairman Nigel Wray said.

“He has created and leaves an outstanding and beautiful new permanent home for Saracens, and a team of people with a real caring and community focus and we will build upon this legacy.

“Edward will forever be a Saracen and always welcome amongst his friends at Allianz Park.”

 

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Saracens produced another stunning comeback to beat Northampton Saints 24 / 20 in a tense and nervy LV Cup semi-final.

Trailing 13 / 5 at half time, Saracens flew out of the traps to run into a 21 / 13 lead with Mike Ellery’s stunning solo effort a particular highlight as Saracens march on to next weekend’s LV Cup final at Franklin’s Gardens.

Ben Spencer was in typical metronomic form from the kicking tee, kicking 14 points in blustery conditions in north London.

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Michael Rhodes

Michael Rhodes

Saracens are delighted to announce the signing of Michael Rhodes from the Stormers.

Michael Rhodes, the Stormers and Western Province forward, will join Saracens at the start of next season, adding South African power to the wolf pack.

Mark McCall, Director of Rugby, said: “We have some time ago identified Michael as a player who could  make significant contribution to the squad, playing in the second row or the back row, carrying the ball and we are confident we can provide an environment where he will realise his full potential. We’re delighted he will be joining us next season.”

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SaracensVodacom Blue BullsSaracens (0) 26 / 39 (13) Blue Bulls (Final Score)

Saracens and the Vodacom Blue Bulls did battle in an inter-hemisphere match which also served as

warm-up for the Bulls at Allianz Park, London at 17:15 SA Time (15:15 BST & GMT).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & CSN on TV in SA.

*******************

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Cell C SharksOn Thursday 5 February, 2015 the Cell C Sharks will play Toulon in a pre-season friendly at the Stade Mayol in a North vs South Challenge match.

This match gives fans the opportunity of seeing the likes of Mouritz Botha and Renaldo Bothma (forwards) and Paul Perez and Waylon Murray (backs) in action for the Cell C Sharks, along with team regulars in a competitive pre-season hit-out against the four time French National competition winners and back-to-back Heineken Cup champions in 2013 and 2014.

 

The following players make up the touring squad to France:

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SaracensVodacom Blue BullsFlanker Deon Stegmann will lead the Vodacom Blue Bulls on Saturday when they take on Saracens in a friendly match outside London. The Blue Bulls named their final travelling squad on Wednesday, just before departure to England.

Regular captain Pierre Spies will only play off the bench in his return to first class rugby after more than 12 months on the sidelines; hence the decision to employ Stegmann’s proven leadership skills. The former Springbok flanker captained the Vodacom Blue Bulls with great success in the ABSA Currie Cup competition in the past.

Another former captain, Victor Matfield, will travel to London as part of the coaching team and not as a player and will not be in action over the weekend.

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Vodacom Blue BullsSaracensThree-time Super Rugby champions the Bulls won’t find that their pre-season campaign gets any easier when they tackle English Premiership side Saracens at their Allianz Park, north London stronghold on Saturday.

The game (Kick-Off 17:15 SA Time, 15:15 BST & GMT) is due to be screened live on SuperSport 1 and CSN, after the Loftus-based side played out a 30 / 13 win minus the glare of television cameras against Super Rugby rivals the Cheetahs in Polokwane last Saturday.

There are few better ways to get European-stationed expatriate rugby players’ juices flowing than by pitting them against South African-based compatriots, and it seems Sarries – currently 3rd in the Premiership behind Northampton and Bath – will be in a position to field several against the presumably still rusty Bulls.

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European Rugby Champions CupJake White’s Montpellier bounced back from their comprehensive loss away from home to Glasgow Warriors last week by beating fellow French team Toulouse in their final European Rugby Champions Pool 4 match on Sunday. Montpellier won a closely contested match by the narrowest of margins with a final score of 27 / 26 in their favour.

This victory for Montpellier meant that Saracens qualified for the last eight of the Cup in spite of losing their last Pool 1 match against pool winners Clermont Auvergne. The score in that match Clermont Auvergne 18 / 6 Saracens.

The 5 pool winners along with the 3 best second placed team advanced and Saracens made it through as the last qualifying with the lowest amount of points from their 6 matches (17). Had Toulouse won they would have qualified as Pool 4 winners along with Bath who won their Pool 4 match against Glasgow Warriors. Toulouse also ended the pool stage on 17 points but Saracens got through via a superior points difference, +14 versus Toulouse’s +2.

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Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown and Scotland Head Coach Vern Cotter (right)

Kelly Brown is determined to work his way back into the Scotland squad after being overlooked for the Six Nations.

The 32-year-old former captain failed to make Vern Cotter’s 32-man pool but is convinced he can still add to his 64 caps.

“It’s clearly disappointing, but selection is a funny thing,” Brown said.

“I want to play for Scotland and I certainly feel I can play for Scotland. I don’t feel over the hill yet.”

Saracens flanker Brown began last season’s Six Nations campaign as captain, although he was dropped later in the tournament. Since then Cotter has replaced Scott Johnson as head coach and Brown believes he has plenty still to offer, with the World Cup later in the year.

Brown has played once under Cotter, in a 19-17 win over Canada in June, but was not selected for the Autumn internationals.

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Derick Hougaard

Derick Hougaard – Saracens

Derick Hougaard

Derick Hougaard – Blue Bulls

Derick Hougaard will have a foot in both camps next Saturday, as Saracens face South African giants the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Allianz Park.

The fly-half, who played for both Saracens and Sanlam Challenge opponents the Vodacom Blue Bulls, has warned Saracens that their latest South African opponents will pose their greatest threat to their 100% record against South African opposition.

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BullsThe Vodacom Bulls have named their team to face the Toyota Cheetahs in Polokwane on Saturday.

Saracens & the Blue Bulls have also published a Vodacom Blue Bulls squad for the encounter the following week in London.

 

Toyota Cheetahs in Polokwane:

New Vodacom Bulls recruits Lappies Labuschagne and Trevor Nyakane will face their former Toyota Cheetahs teammates in Polokwane on Saturday when the two Vodacom Super Rugby sides clash in a friendly match in the Peter Mokaba Stadium.

Flanker Labuschagne and Nyakane, who was selected at loosehead prop, moved north at the start of the season and will be part of the first hit-out of the season for the Pretoria side.

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Concussion Gadget

Owen Farrell wearing the impact sensors

Saracens players wore impact sensors during the match against London Irish on Saturday, launching the first element of the club’s ground-breaking programme to determine the effects of concussion on rugby players. The gadgets measure the force and direction of impact to the head, and are taped behind the ear lobe.

Edward Griffiths, chief executive, said: “We’re collecting data because we want answers. In simple terms, we don’t want to meet our players in 20 or 25 years’ time, to find them suffering from dementia or any similar condition, and to reflect we suspected something was going on but we didn’t really know. We want to know.”

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Jack Wilson

Jack Wilson

The Cell C Sharks have lured a New Zealand Sevens player to Durban as they continue to bolster their own ranks.

New Zealand-born wing Jack Wilson has signed for the Sharks from English Premiership club Saracens and will immediately join the Super Rugby squad.

The talented wing, 25, arrived in London in December 2012 and has scored 6 tries in 19 appearances for Saracens.

His arrival follows shortly after confirmation that Saracens’ England lock Mouritz Botha will also make Durban his home next year. Botha, unlike Wilson, will only join the coastal franchise in January.

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