Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Make-or-Break Year for Ambitious Kafer

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Make-or-Break Year for Ambitious Kafer

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS JONES

ROD KAFER is being touted as a potential coach of the Wallabies but his future will be determined by the success of Saracens, the misfiring Zurich Premiership outfit who have fallen from pacesetters to also-rans in just six years.

The heady days of English Cup glory at Twickenham and a second place finish in the Premiership in 1998 are distant memories and very few of the current squad can claim to have been part of those good times.

In Kafer's first season, he inherited a squad created by others and could only mount a damage limitation operation which saw the club stumble to a third-from-bottom finish. Once again, Sarries failed to qualify for the money-spinning Heineken Cup.

They have operated a revolvingdoor policy for player recruitment which has cost owner Nigel Wray more than [pounds sterling]10million and seen high-profile coaches Francois Pienaar and Wayne Shelford depart, along with a host of wellknown players.

So, by agreeing to coach Sarries, has Kafer accepted the poisoned chalice of professional rugby?

"This is a make or break in some ways," admitted the former Leicester backs coach. "I am between 80 and 90 per cent of having the squad I want at Saracens. There are a couple of positions where I think maybe I could do something different but on the whole I am very confident with the players I have got.

"Our aim is Heineken Cup rugby.

If we exceed that in some capacity, then fantastic. If we don't make the Heineken Cup next season then it is my reputation that's on the line."

Such words represent fighting talk for Sarries, who have torn up last year's squad and, once again, brought in more fresh faces.

Kafer insists the recruitment policy he has masterminded with fellow-Australian Mark Sinderberry, the chief executive, is vital if Sarries are to have an even chance of achieving something substantial. …

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