Brendan Venter and Schalk Brits, two of the architects of Saracens’ success, have dismissed fears that looming job and pay cuts will seriously undermine the club’s bid to avoid relegation from the Gallagher Premiership in the wake of the salary cap scandal.
Venter, the former Saracens director of rugby, axed 18 players including All Black lock Chris Jack on what became known as “Black Monday” in 2009 as he dramatically changed the culture of a club that has since won five Premiership and three Heineken European Cup titles.
Brits, a member of South Africa’s 2019 World Cup-winning squad in Japan, spent a decade at Saracens and helped forge the close bonds that are now under strain by the need to cut costs and dismantle the squad.
The reigning English and European champions were fined £5.3million and docked 35 league points for failing to comply with the £7m salary cap over the last three seasons and Edward Griffiths, the interim chief executive, is currently working to identify how they can show the rest of the Premiership the club is operating within the cap.
Saracens are 18 points adrift at the bottom of the league and will face the next five rounds of Premiership games without their England players who will be involved in the Six Nations.
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Wales full-back Liam Williams is heading back to the Scarlets while back row forwards Calum Clark and Michael Rhodes – plus Argentina prop Juan Figallo – appear likely to follow him out of the club as the wage bill is trimmed.
It is a troubling time for everyone involved with Saracens but Venter told RugbyPass: “The team we took over 2009 was not the current side. It was a broken team full of rugby mercenaries. This team is a proper rugby team that has been galvanised over ten years and my hope for them is that they prove the world wrong and that it was not about money at Saracens. It was the way people treated us with respect and looked after our families.
The board of directors voted unanimously.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 6, 2020
“I am sure that the current group, even if they have to make sacrifices, will still perform and that will be the biggest compliment to Nigel Wray (the club owner) despite having to go through so much in a year. My message to the players, who are my friends, is that here is the best chance you are going to get to show the world it was not about money.”
Brits is also adamant the Saracens “family” will not be torn apart by the current problems and said: “There is always a bigger picture at Saracens and it is never just about rugby. It is also about how they look after their players and even if they let guys go they will make sure there is some other option.
“In 2009 there was the Black Monday when they got rid of a big portion of the squad but they tried to put those people in a position where they had another option and Saracens will never leave a player out on the street.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 6, 2020
“Even if Saracens go down – so what? It is the people that make a club and they will bounce back from this. The aim at Saracens wasn’t to win things, it was to make memories together and winning is a product of that.
“One thing is certain: at some point, you will have to stop playing rugby and Saracens is a club that thinks about the person and that is why I speak so highly of them.
“The guys they have in the squad means it has a great character and the beauty of the club is everyone will be taken care of from a future perspective. That is how they looked after me and when I joined I was asked what was my plan after rugby and worked with me on this.
“This is a club that brought in three days of training and said on one of the other days you either spend it with your family or get work experience to expand your next career. I worked in London because the club was concerned about my next career which starts here in South Africa on Monday.”
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