Saracens' South African contingent grows in number every couple of days – or at least that is how the news comes out, with the Watford-based club drip-feeding their announcements in the manner of Daily Telegraph expenses revelations. SArries (the word coined by Edward Griffiths, Saracens' chief executive) now have Brendan Venter and Cobus Visagie coaching, and South African-born players Frik Venter, Neil de Kock, Wikus van Heerden, Justin Melck, Brad Barritt, Ernst Joubert, Michael Horak, Schalk Brits and Ethienne Reynecke. "There will be a South African flavour but not to the extent that everyone was making out," Venter the coach has said. Bums on seats at club rugby is fine by Ruck and Maul and if a strong "flavour" helps Saracens get the job done by attracting SA ex-pats, why not shout it from the rooftops?
The Russians are coming Sarries and every other London club must wish real estate in the capital was as cheap as in Russia, where the champions, Podmoskovje RFC, are building an 11,000-seat stadium complete with "sports shops, training rooms and saunas". Russia's national side is on the march towards the 2011 World Cup, having recently defeated past finalists Spain, Portugal and Romania under Steve Diamond, the former Saracens and Sale coach. Howard Thomas, former chief executive of Premier Rugby and Sale, is an advisor to the Rugby Union of Russia. "At the moment nobody knows about rugby in Russia," said Diamond. "World Cup qualification would mean that we could spread our wings and the game would explode."
Pacific Islanders in peril
Less enthused by the international game is Sitiveni Rabuka, team manager of the Pacific Islanders who fight a constant battle to sustain a meaningful Test programme. "I am wondering whether we will get to the stage where people play for their clubs professionally and we do not have teams playing internationally or touring between World Cups," said Rabuka. "Look at the NFL. It's big and it's strong and they don't have a national team." Disagree with Mr Rabuka at your peril. The former Major-General established Fiji as a republic after he led two military coups in 1987, before being elected Prime Minister in 1992. He has an OBE and France's Legion d'Honneur from his time as a UN peacekeeper in Lebanon, when he broke cover to drag a colleague to safety. And as a prop who toured with Fiji in the 1970s, he does not reject Test rugby lightly. The International Board might be alarmed at such a view.
Q uins face bloody battle
Clubs in every country will be waiting for the verdict of the European Rugby Cup disciplinary panel which we understand will convene in London in the first week of July to hear a complaint of misconduct against Harlequins. Almost three months will have elapsed since the Heineken Cup quarter-final and the blood substitution of the Harlequins replacement Tom Williams which is under investigation, but the delay now is to ensure that all interested parties – possibly including players, coaches and doctors – are available to attend.Reuse content