Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Vyvyan: Team Spirit Rescued Sarries' Season from Disaster

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Vyvyan: Team Spirit Rescued Sarries' Season from Disaster

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones

HUGH VYVYAN never doubted Saracens would recover from their midterm wobble, thanks to the team spirit built up on a pre-season camp in South Africa.

Brendan Venter is the sixth head coach Vyvyan has played for at Vicarage Road in as many years and the lock says morale among the squad has never been better in that time.

The arrival of South African investment early last year led to the appointment of former Springbok Venter, who has drafted in a number of new players from his homeland.

Ahead of this campaign, the new-look Sarries were taken to Cape Town, where the mixture of work and play created a bond among the squad.

"The new guys who arrived from South Africa fitted in quickly and are very good players," said Vyvyan. "It means we have real strength in depth which is crucial.

"It has taken a while to be this competitive in the Premiership and with the constant change in coaches it has made it difficult but Brendan Venter has created by far the happiest squad I have been involved with at the club.

"We have had some great times at Sarries -- most notably reaching the Heineken Cup semis [in 2008] -- but it started right from that pre-season trip to Cape Town and everyone really enjoyed getting to know each other. We had an incredibly tough five or six weeks' work before going to Cape Town to play three games.

"However, there was a lot of social time where we got together for a few beers as a squad."

Saracens were unstoppable as the season got underway -- they had a 100 per cent record in the Guinness Premiership until November and were unbeaten in the league for a further month.

However, a run of three consecutive defeats in the second half of the season dented their Premiership title hopes, so Venter decided the squad needed a break.

He took them off to Brighton for a couple of days where they enjoyed some more social time as they chewed over their problems. Their first game back saw them thump Newcastle 58-15 at Vicarage Road as they bounced back to form in style.

"We talked about wanting to change the way we were playing now that the referees were taking a different view at the break down and Brendan agreed," said Vyvyan. …

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