South Africa connection: The stunning Saracens XV made up of players from the country
Gallagher Premiership champions Saracens have for a long time had a special link with South Africa.
Francois Pienaar and John Smit both led the Springboks to world titles before materialising in Greater London.
They have been criticised in the past for investing too heavily in South African imports and the link remains strong with Schalk Burger and Vincent Koch being linchpins of the Sarries pack while Michael Rhodes and Brad Barritt also hail from Springbok territory.
Here is an XV of the best South African players to represent Saracens (It’s very impressive):
Fullback: Gavin Johnson
He won the 1995 Rugby World Cup with the Springboks before moving to Saracens in 1997, scoring 363 points in 37 appearances in the next two seasons.
Winger: Michael Horak
After spending two seasons with Benetton Treviso, Horak signed with Saracens for the 2009–10 season, but announced his retirement with immediate effect in January 2010.
Centre: Brad Barritt
Reaching over 190 caps for Saracens, Brad Barritt has been one of the cornerstones of the Sarries ‘Wolfpack’ defence that has dominated European club rugby over the past couple of seasons.
Originally hailing from South Africa, Brad joined Saracens from Super Rugby side the Sharks in 2008, and his relentless defensive effort, granite-like toughness and incredible rugby vision made him an instant hit at the north London club, winning Saracens’ Player of the Season Award in the 2009/10 season.
His club form, as well as his appearances for the England Saxons side caught the eye of Stuart Lancaster, the then England head coach, who gave him his opportunity to play international rugby for the senior England team, as Barritt qualifies through English grandparents. He earnt 26 full international caps.
Centre: Jannie de Beer
De Beer made his Springbok debut against the British & Irish Lions in 1997, playing in the dead rubber third Test victory over the tourists in place of Henry Honiball. His most famous moment in international rugby came in the quarter-final of the 1999 Rugby World Cup, when he slotted a record five drop-goals to beat England in Paris.
In 1997 he also notched a South African record, scoring 46 points for Free State in a Currie Cup victory over Northern Free State. He retired in 2002 due to a knee injury, having enjoyed a spell in England with Saracens.
Winger: Brent Russell
The 23-cap South Africa international signed for Saracens F.C. in time for their campaign in 2007. He only spent one season with the London club, scoring 27 points in one season for the club before joining Top 14 side Clermont.