Saracens face Sale Sharks on Saturday afternoon in round 9 of the Aviva Premiership, kick off at 15h00.
Henry Fraser previews Saturday’s visitors;
Form guide, won 4, lost 4.
It’s amazing to think where the Sharks were this time last year. Sitting rock bottom in the league and finding a win as rare as seeing a blue moon. This season however is almost a mirror image currently sitting seventh just three points behind the defending champions, Leicester.
An away win on the opening day of the season against Gloucester at Kingsholm made a real statement to the rest of the Premiership. They showed their potential that promised so much last season but failed to deliver. A win at home to a much-fancied Bath team showed they mean serious business this year.
Steve Diamond may not have made any big name signings for this season but they have been hugely effective. The acquisition of Michael Paterson in the second row has settled their set piece and gives them secure ball to attack from. He has played all but ten minutes in the premiership this season and is third in the list of top line out takes this season. His battle against Steve Borthwick for line out domination could be crucial.
Their pack is not the biggest but it is very mobile. They all love to get their hands on the ball and can give many attacking options and stretch defences.
The rejuvenation of Danny Cipriani has given the team more direction and his combination with a couple of Samoan powerhouses in the centres could cause most defences problems. These combinations have also given room for Mark Cueto to extend his lead as all time Premiership top try scorer sitting joint top this year with David Strettle on six tries. Cipriani has not missed a penalty shot at goal yet, so Sarries will have to keep their discipline in check.
Even though the Sharks are ranked quite low in the tries scored category, thirteen tries, they do score at important times that can really sink teams. They score a lot either side of half time, with eight of their tries coming in twenty minutes either side of the break. Sarries will have to go into the break strong and come out firing after.
Last week also proved that the Sharks have a great ability to run the ball and score tries from nothing. One of their tries could be a contender for try of the season, a great team effort. The artificial pitch at Allianz Park could be their friend.
In defence they have only conceded one more try than Sarries (13), but do tend to concede more in the second half when Sarries score most. Patience will be key.
The Sharks will bring everything on Saturday and their mix of youth and experience could relish the atmosphere of Allianz Park.
10/3/13 Sale Sharks 21 – 15 Saracens
6/1/13 Saracens 32 – 12 Sale Sharks
16/11/12 Sale Sharks 25 – 23 Saracens
Players to watch
Daniel Braid – “He may not be the biggest player on the pitch but carries and hits as if he were. Braid and Seymour may not be your typical 6/7 combo, but together slow down and win a lot of ball. His international experience is vital for the younger players around him. He punches above his weight and is a captain that really leads by example. The battle of the backrows could decide this game”.