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Saracens vs South Africa makes perfect sense in 2021

By Josh Raisey
Brad Barritt of Saracens (C) is congratulated by team mates after scoring during the friendly match between Saracens and South Africa at Wembley in 2009 (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

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Time to run it back? Saracens and South Africa are two teams that have played very little rugby over the past year, and are still not set to play again for a number of months.


Saracens must wait until March before their truncated season in the Greene King IPA Championship begins, while the Springboks have not played a match since Siya Kolisi lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in 2019, and are not due to play another one until the first Test against the British and Irish Lions in Johannesburg in July, should the tour still go ahead.

Both teams are hungry for fixtures, with Saracens exploring the option of creating a mini tournament before their domestic season commences. Meanwhile, Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber recently said that they are seeking new fixtures to get the world champions ready for the Lions. Indeed, a lack of preparation was one of the main reasons why they opted not to compete in the recent Tri-Nations.

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Bryan Habana rewatches the second Test in 2009:

Surely this provides a perfect opportunity for the two to face one another? Saracens traditionally have a good relationship with South African opposition; not only have they had a large African contingent in their squad in the past, but they played the Sharks in 2014 and famously beat the Springboks 24-23 in an exhibition match in Wembley in 2009.

This could benefit both sides in equal measure, as well as Warren Gatland and his Lions squad. Though Saracens have a handful of players out on loan, they still boast seven players in their squad that have been selected for the Lions before (including Billy Vunipola who pulled out of the 2017 tour), an indication of the calibre of players within the Saracens squad, and why they will offer stern opposition for the Springboks.

Moreover, the big names for Saracens are likely to feature in the Six Nations, but may not necessarily be called upon in the Championship. They will want to stay sharp as much as the Springboks will ahead of the summer.

The main question is when would this match be, as while there is still over two months before the Championship season starts, preparations for the Six Nations will begin later this month.


Nienaber also outlined what South Africa are looking for in their prospective opponents.
“Whatever matches we arrange, we must prepare for the Lions’ tour,” he told Rapport. “If you think [Lions coach] Warren Gatland will coach his team to play Barbarians rugby, we can play against the Barbarians. But if you think he’s going to dominate, with good solid facets and kicks, you need to make sure you practice against a team that has those qualities.

“Our preparation will be similar to what we would expect from the Lions.”

Once again, this shows why this is an ideal matchup, as not only do Saracens play a style that is comparable to how Gatland’s Lions will play, particularly their defensive side, but there is a legitimate case that at least five current Saracens players will start against the Springboks in the red Lions jersey. In that case, for the potential Lions tourists within the Saracens squad, as well the South African players they could face, there is no better preparation for July.


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Saracens vs South Africa makes perfect sense in 2021