Can the Sharks emulate Saracens?

Sale have undergone a great deal of change this summer in the wake of a disappointing Guinness Premiership season that ended in a relegation dogfight.

Will the changes they made have the desired effect? Will the club have their fortunes turned around or will they continue to struggle? And one question that will be prominent in every Sale fan’s mind, will the bog, sorry pitch, be any better than last season?

Last season Saracens removed Eddie Jones and replaced him with Brendan Venter, sparking the belief that Saracens were undergoing a South African revolution. At the time virtually all rugby fans looked upon what happened with disdain, and the way the changes were carried out did not represent rugby in a good light. But, credit where credit is due, Saracens were the stand out side for much of last season with a rejuvenated squad and an unprecedented level of togetherness.

The current situation at Sale is comparable in many respects. Mike Brewer has been recruited by Brian Kennedy and is somewhat similar to Venter: he knows who he wants in his squad and how he wants to play, and he has surely bruised some egos.

He has pursued a transfer policy which is interesting to say the least – few of the players he has brought in have Premiership experience and perhaps the two who have been most acclaimed have question marks over them.

Samoan wing Mikaele Pesamino is a remarkable player at sevens but has yet to set the 15s world alight – potential echoes of Waisale Serevi perhaps? Kiwi Karena Wihongi was rumoured to have insurance issues that prevented him from transferring within France, suggesting that the North West of England might not have been his preferred destination.

The happiness of the players already at Sale must also be looked at when considering the team’s prospects. Senior personnel such as Mark Cueto and Charlie Hodgson are unlikely to be pleased to see Jason Robinson, their old team mate, released in such a way considering his service to the club. And the wholesale changes have not been of the quality of Sebastian Chabal, Sebastian Bruno and Chris Schofield, which is what Hodgson was looking for when he made comments about important players not being replaced last season.

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom for Sale fans. There has clearly been a change in mentality throughout the club and they will not be content with looking longingly to their Guinness Premiership win in 2006 for comfort. The single-mindedness of Mike Brewer combined with the talents of Dwayne Peel, Mathew Tait, Hodgson and Cueto could truly rejuvenate the team from Edgeley Park.

Sale fans must take heart from Saracens last season, that a squad thrown together and with plenty of doubters like myself can bond and become a team. And rest assured the pitch will definitely be better.

By Alex Harking

2 thoughts on “Can the Sharks emulate Saracens?

  1. Funny how all that shenanigans at Saracens the season before last has basically been forgotten now. There was lots of uproar at the time and lots of people saying it’ll never work, but after almost winning the premiership last year, people have forgotten all that.

    The way it was all handled probably wasnt the best and hard on the guys that were basically sacked, but everyone else has done so well since. Can they keep it up at that level for another season??

  2. It certainly looks like being a pivotal season for them and I reckon at the very least they will pull well clear of the relegation dogfight they got drawn in to last season.

    Robinson was among my favourite players of all time, but as soon as I heard that he was being made head coach, it just never added up for me. Awesome player at his peak, but can you imagine him swearing and throwing tea cups?

    I think for a few teams in the bottom half of last year’s table, there is a chance this season to get away with a bit more experimentation than usual. I say this – at the risk of sounding unkind – because for me, Exeter look like the biggest nailed on cert for relegation we’ve seen coming up in a long time. That’s a bld statement of course and I could be eating my words come May!

    Returning to the subject of Sale though, I think they have a good backline and if they can stop playing like they’re crippled with fear like last season, they’ll be well on the way.

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