'Massive challenge' awaits Saracens in the Heineken Cup warns John Smit
Monday 23 January 2012
South African star John Smit has braced Saracens for "a massive challenge" in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals against French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne.
Reigning Aviva Premiership champions Saracens are England's sole survivors in the competition after winning Pool Five courtesy of a 26-20 victory over Treviso in Italy.
They will now host Clermont during the opening weekend in April, with holders Leinster entertaining Cardiff Blues, Munster meeting Ulster in Limerick and Edinburgh facing four-time European champions Toulouse at Murrayfield.
"Clermont are a fantastic club with quality players throughout the squad," said Saracens hooker Smit, who spent a season at Clermont earlier in his career.
"It is going to be a massive challenge for us, but one which we cannot wait for.
"I know from my time there that they always want to do well in the Heineken Cup. But at Saracens, we are looking to create our own legacy with the squad of players we have."
Saracens' Vicarage Road home ground in Watford meets the 15,000 minimum quarter-final capacity demanded by Heineken Cup organisers, while they will also have home country advantage should they eliminate Clermont, facing Leinster or the Blues.
Edinburgh, the first Scottish team to secure a quarter-final home tie as a top-four seed since the competition began almost 17 years ago, can now look forward to greeting Toulouse after a bonus-point 34-11 win against London Irish denied the Blues top spot in Pool Two.
"Toulouse at home is much better than Toulouse away," Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley said.
"They can be stunning in attack, but if you do your work properly and you are clinical, you can put them under pressure.
"This is a huge step forward for Edinburgh rugby, first and foremost, and to the players here who made a commitment to each other in September when we set out some objectives and how we wanted to play the game.
"We made a commitment to areas we haven't been good at in the past, and we have had some brilliant games here at Murrayfield against Racing Metro and the Cardiff Blues.
"The boys have achieved what they set out to do so far, and it's great for Edinburgh rugby. I thought we played well and controlled the game against London Irish."
The Blues, meanwhile, are Wales' sole survivors, progressing as best runner-up after Edinburgh claimed their all-important fourth try just two minutes from time.
The winners of the tie between Edinburgh and Toulouse tie will be away to Munster or Ulster in the semi-finals, a game seemingly destined for Dublin's Aviva Stadium.
And in the second-tier Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals, Wasps will host Biarritz, Exeter travel to meet Stade Francais, Brive host the Scarlets and Toulon entertain Premiership leaders Harlequins.
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