Schalk Brits epitomises the offensive ability of Saracens’ forwards and their strength in depth
PUBLISHED: 16:00 23 November 2016 | UPDATED: 17:54 24 November 2016
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It was business as usual for Saracens as they continued their good form in the Premiership on Saturday, beating Sale at the AJ Bell Stadium and leaving themselves three points ahead of second-placed Bath in the table.
Sarries were clinical, scoring three tries against a side renowned for their strength at home. And, although the bonus point proved elusive on this occasion, director of rugby Mark McCall will have been delighted with his side’s 28-13 triumph, particularly after the break in top-flight fixtures.
With notable players away on international duty, a mixture of youngsters and old hands inspired a mature performance which was effectively set up by the forwards and allowed the backs to take the plaudits.
The set piece offered Sarries a great attacking platform and they essentially outplayed Sale at their own game.
Alex Lozowski profited from a strong Sarries rolling maul following a lineout in the opening exchanges, utilising the space that was created when the pack drew in Sale scrum-half Peter Stringer.
In positions like these, the steadfast work of the forwards often goes unseen but these behind-the-scenes shifts often gives Sarries the edge over their opponents.
Hooker and man of the match Schalk Brits has been instrumental in that respect on numerous occasions this season.
He is one of the forwards in the pack that would not look out of place in the back line, and his reading of the game to set up his side’s second try highlights the synchronicity between the forwards and backs.
Even when they are on the back foot Saracens will punish mistakes, turning defence into attack, and they proved that against Sale at the weekend, especially from broken play.
Brits is a player who covers the pitch with ease – he is one of Sarries’ most effective ball carriers and a quality service provider at the set piece. The 35-year-old caused Sale problems in defence and, with Jamie George currently on England duty, it will be a big bonus if the South African can stay fit as the season progresses.
Saracens’ strength in the hooker position just underlines the quality throughout their squad. To win the league and defend their European crown, the Hendon outfit need two or three players who are consistently competing and pushing each other to be the best, and they certainly have that in Brits and George.
The pair share similarities. They are both direct in their approach – they are the ball carriers who build momentum and, with the game constantly evolving, it is a position that has become increasingly influential. The job is much bigger now than simply throwing in the lineout and hooking the ball at the scrum.
Sarries are making the most of those attributes and have adapted their game to allow the pair to have an impact in attack, combining with the back line.
McCall’s side are now preparing to welcome ninth-placed Gloucester to Allianz Park this Sunday, looking to extend an unbeaten home run against the south west-based club which stretches back to 2008.
Yet Gloucester produced the upset of the weekend when they secured a bonus-point victory over third-placed Wasps, so Sarries will need a good defensive performance.
They will also need to quell the kicking game of a side that plays territory extremely well, and battle to assert control in key areas while suppressing Gloucester’s key runners.
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