Saracens head coach Brendan Venter has selected a powerful starting line-up for his team’s friendly match against UCT at Groote Schuur on Friday night – a team that includes current England captain Steve Borthwick.
Borthwick will line up alongside former England Under-19 skipper Tom Ryder in the second row, with the Saracens halfbacks none other than ex-Springbok Derick Hougaard and veteran All Blacks scrumhalf Justin Marshall.
Other familiar faces include former Sharks centre Brad Barritt – who has now thrown in his lot with England, ex-Lions No.8 Ernst Joubert, 2007 World Cup-winning Bok Wikus van Heerden and, of course, former Maties, WP, Stormers and Bok No.9 Neil de Kock.
De Kock and Van Heerden are on the bench, whilst Italian stars Carlos Nieto (tighthead prop) and Fabio Ongaro (hooker) will make up two-thirds of a battle-hardened front row.
Saracens arrived in South Africa on Thursday night for a two-match tour of Cape Town – which will see them in action against the Ikey Tigers’ first and second teams this evening, before coming up against a Western Province Invitational outfit next Friday.
The two Saracens-UCT matches will kick-off at 6.30pm and 8pm, respectively, and a lively crowd is expected at the Green Mile.
Earlier this week, Neil de Kock told varsitycup.co.za that he was looking forward to locking horns with UCT again, having last done so in the maroon jersey of Stellenbosch.
He said: “I’ve managed to catch some Varsity Cup highlights over here during the past two years and it’s great to see UCT doing so well and playing the brand of rugby that they do.
“They’ve been in the Varsity Cup play-off these past two years and their coach (John Dobson) has openly said he would like to finish on a high before taking his new coaching job in Italy next year.
“UCT have always loved giving the ball some air and they’re bound to be a fit team at this stage of their season,” continued De Kock, “so I’m expecting plenty of running on Friday night.
“It will also be great to catch up with everyone afterwards and from what I’ve heard there should be a nice crowd and a great atmosphere (at UCT) on the night.”
* With Venter having announced his first team to take on UCT, the UCT Eagles (the Ikeys’ second team) will be up against the likes of – to name just a few! – Chris Wyles (USA international), Hugh Vyvyan (England), Schalk Brits (South Africa), Ethienne Reynecke, Justin Melck and Michael Horak (England).
The Saracens team (v UCT first team): 15 Alex Goode, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Rod Penney, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Richard Haughton, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Justin Marshall, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Don Barrell, 5 Tom Ryder, 4 Steve Borthwick (captain), 3 Carlos Nieto, 2 Fabio Ongaro, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements – from: Jamie George, Tom Mercey, Wikus van Heerden, Mosese Rauluni, Neil de Kock, Kameli Ratuvou.
Head coach: Brendan Venter
Assistant coaches: Mark McCall, Paul Gustard, Andy Farrell and Alex Sanderson.
Team manager: Mike Hynard