Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Professional rugby can unfortunately come with the sacrifice of losing all that is great about the game. The off the field fun is disappearing as players are in peak physical condition, and also have to be on their best behaviour at all times.
Saracens host South Africa tonight in a friendly tour match at Wembley. A few night ago the teams got acquainted with one another and had a good old fashioned night in at the pub.
For some it was a matter of catching up with old friends, especially with the South African element that currently exists at Saracens. For others, it was a chance to meet new friends and get closer to the guys they'll be up against come kick-off at Wembley.
"Both squads got together for a meal on Sunday night and it was fantastic for the players and coaches to just sit down and have a chat and also see a few friendships renewed," said Saracens head coach Brendan Venter.
"But come kick-off both teams will want to win what promises to be a fiercely contested game and a historic occasion at one of the best sporting venues in the world."
This type of meet-and-greet probably doesn't happen very often these days, what with the hectic schedules of the players, and of course the fierce competitiveness that exists.
It's great to see though, and perhaps initiatives like this will go a long way towards bringing back more of the traditional rugby clubhouse gatherings at grounds. Not long ago, players and fans would mingle and have a drink and a chat after a match. It's sorely missed by older rugby fans, who no doubt have many tales to tell of nights spent drinking with famous players.
Festivities aside though, tonight will be a chance for the South African Dirt Trackers to redeem themselves after their poor performance against Leicester last week. It's pretty much the same team that will run out against Saracens, minus the front row from that night, who've all flown him injured.
Possibly expansive, most definitely physical, this should be an intriguing battle once again.
:: Spoiler Alert ::
Saracens have beaten South Africa 24-23 thanks to a Derick Hougaard dropgoal late in the game.
Note: Thanks to Skysports for the clip
Saracens Team: 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 African Team: 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