Rugby

Saracens desperate for Brits to bow out with title

2018-05-25 08:15
Schalk Brits (Getty)

Twickenham - Schalk Brits will put his much-battered and bruised body on the line one last time at Twickenham on Saturday, with his Saracens team-mates desperate to give the veteran South African a perfect send-off courtesy of another winners' medal. 

The 37-year-old pocket battleship hooker, who has become a cult figure with the London club's supporters since arriving nine years ago, has admitted in the build-up to the English Premiership final against title-holders Exeter Chiefs to be having a few regrets as he approaches his last match before retiring from rugby union. 

Those statements of sadness, from a player who many did feel was unlucky to win just 10 Springbok caps, were echoed by the England duo of Mako Vunipola and Jamie George, who insisted the likeable Brits's departure will leave Saracens with a large hole to fill on and off the field. 

"Schalk is one of a kind, a real character," said George, who has competed with Brits for the starting hooker's No 2 jersey at Saracens. 

"We're definitely going to miss his presence on the field and around the club." 

George added: "He has played a huge part in creating the special culture here. He's a winner who loves playing rugby, and that rubs off on all the guys. 

"We have been rivals in a positional sense but he's also helped my career progress. It would be good to give him a good leaving present in the way of the title." 

Prop forward Vunipola endorsed those sentiments by joking: "Someone as grumpy as myself needs someone as positive and happy as him to balance it out! 

"Schalk always has a smile on his face, and we want him to be smiling after the game on Saturday." 

However, Vunipola and Saracens will need all their muscle and guile to wrestle the English crown from a an Exeter side that finished eight points clear of them at the top of the table and also completed a regular-season 'double' over Sarries. 

But George insisted Saracens were far better placed now to repeat the form that has helped them appear in seven of the last 10 Premiership and European Cup finals, and win three domestic titles in seven years. 

"We went through something of a slump midway through the season and things did not look good," he admitted. 

"But we knew we could work and play our way through it. We had the experience and quality here to eventually come out the other end and show people we still meant business. 

"The culture here is to always want to get better," George said. "We're proud of what we have achieved but we want a lot more." 

Few people are better qualified than George, however, to assess the qualities of Exeter's impressive pack. 

"Exeter have a strong scrum, good maul and can dominate in the set-piece if you let them," he explained. "So we have to do our jobs properly up front and make sure we are the ones dominating, as we did against Wasps in the play-off semi-final." 

Exeter back Henry Slade is convinced though that lightning can strike again as the Chiefs attempt to follow up last year's nail-biting 23-20 extra-time victory over Wasps in the final - the club's first English title - with another Twickenham triumph. 

Slade can also boost his chances of an England start on the upcoming South Africa tour with an impressive display on Saturday. 

"It's our third successive final and we've learnt a lot from both losing and winning," said Slade. 

"Getting over the line 12 months ago gives us the confidence and belief we can do it again. 

"To beat a strong team like Sarries you have to be good in every area, carrying, kicking and creating holes and chances. 

"We are really excited about getting out there and want to cap off a great season with the trophy."

Read more on:    saracens  |  schalk brits  |  rugby
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