De Kock’s ready for European showdown as Saracens host Munster

Saracens' Neil de Kock

Saracens' Neil de Kock - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Saracens return to European action on Saturday when two-time Heineken Cup champions Munster visit a sold-out Allianz Park.

Mark McCall’s men go into the match against the Irish province knowing they must win to maintain hopes in the inaugural European Champions Cup.

Sarries currently sit in second place in the qualification pool – a point behind leaders Clermont Auvergne.

And, with a trip to the French side to come the following week, the Hendon outfit know that two wins from two games will earn a quarter-final spot.

“To go into the final two games with our destiny largely in our own hands is all we could really ask for,” said scrum-half Neil de Kock. “We’re in a very tough qualification pool when you consider that three out of the four teams were in the semi-finals of the competition last year.

“So every game we’ve had has been pretty much knockout rugby, and that will continue on Saturday. We didn’t perform as we would have liked when we played Munster in Limerick in October [in the 18-3 defeat] and we’re keen to put that right.

“But we know that Munster are an excellent team with internationals across the pitch and they have a lot of European experience.

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“They know how to grind out results so that is something we must be wary of. But we also have to concentrate on our own game and do the things we know we can do well. It’s going to be a great occasion and a full house. We can’t wait for it.”

Saracens didn’t have the ideal preparation with their heartbreaking late defeat at Gloucester last weekend.

With Saracens leading by two points in the final minute, Chris Ashton thought he had secured the victory when he chased a kick to score the visitors’ fourth try.

However, he was pulled back for offside, giving Gloucester a penalty from the halfway line with the last kick of the match – and James Hook converted from 50m to win the game 24-23.

“One kick is the difference between a happy dressing room and a disappointed one,” said De Kock.

“A couple of weeks ago we managed to win in the very last minute with a missed kick [away at Newcastle], and this week we lost with the kick going over. Sometimes they go your way and sometimes they don’t.”

Meanwhile, Saracens Storm – the club’s second team – lifted the Hendon outfit’s first trophy of the season on Monday night.

A 27-19 victory against Worcester Warriors at Sixways secured the Aviva A-League title.