Guinness Premiership Preview: players to watch at Saracens

The first game takes place tomorrow, and we have a few more of these previews to pack in, and Jon Hobbs is wondering if this article will provoke the same reaction as yesterday’s Newcastle preview.

Schalk Brits

Schalk Brits could be a great signing

Players in:

Ernst Joubert (Lions)
Frik Venter (Sharks)
Schalk Brits (Stormers)
Carlos Nieto (Gloucester)
Michael Tagicakibau (London Welsh)
Michael Horak (Treviso)
Richard Skuse (London Irish)
Kevin Barrett (Exeter)
Rhys Gill (Cardiff Blues)
Ethienne Reynecke (Lions)
Mouritz Botha (Bedford)
Derick Hougaard (Leicester)

Players out:

Andy Kyriacou (Ulster)
Kris Chesney (Toulon)
Chris Jack (Western Province and Crusaders)
Cencus Johnston (Toulouse)
Ben Jacobs (Wasps)
Ben Skirving (Bath)
Andy Farrell (Retired)
Dan Scarbrough (Racing-Metro)
Cobus Visagie (Retired)
Micky Wilson (Viadana)
Alex Walker (Newcastle)
David Seymour (Sale)
Gordon Ross (London Welsh)

Saracens have begun their South African revolution quietly, signing four players from Super 14 franchises but also making some astute buys from other English clubs.

Richard Skuse and Carlos Nieto are proven premiership props who will give Sarries a solid platform. Joining them in the front row will be the ever-improving Schalk Brits – anyone who saw him play for the Barbarians at Wembley last season will have seen one of the finest performances from a hooker in the whole season, albeit in a friendly. Even so, he could be one of the signings of the season.

Of the players they’ve let go, only Chris Jack will really be missed – it doesn’t appear that he has been adequately replaced. Loyal fans will also be sad to see Cencus depart. Having a prop who can make cover tackles on wingers is something to be cherished; he’ll still be peaking for the next couple of seasons so watch out for him in the Heineken Cup with Toulouse.

Elsewhere in the squad there is plenty of competition for places and Saracens shouldn’t be hamstrung by international call-ups unlike some of their counterparts, aside from Steve Borthwick.

Having the services of Neil de Kock, Justin Marshall, Derick Hougaard and Glen Jackson vying for the half back positions is an enviable situation to be in, and if they can run the game and orchestrate the rest of the side, Sarries will be a force to be reckoned with.

The only question mark with Saracens is their hunger and determination – it is an accusation often levelled at Saracens but doesn’t ever seem to have been addressed within the club. When they get into an arm wrestle with the likes of Leicester, Harlequins and Bath, will they come out on top? I just can’t see it. They will take some beating, but they’ll be just outside the top 4.

Prediction: 5th