Apr 27, 2017
The heart of Saracens - Neil De Kock
Speaking to Neil de Kock you only start to get a glimpse into this man’s heart. This proud South African for the last 11-years has been involved in a love affair which has taken place in plain sight.
On Saturday, Neil De Kock will run out for his 263rd appearance for Saracens, in what will be the last game for the club he loves. The club he has given much more than blood, sweat and tears to. The club he has given his life too and he does not regret a single moment of it.
“This club has given me so much,” he said. “I’ve had such a brilliant time at this club and I would have had three children while being involved with this club and there is no place I would rather finish my career.
“My roots are firmly imbedded here and I owe a lot to Nigel Wray, to the coaches and to the club itself.
When he talks of the memories he has of his Saracens career it is impossible not to get sucked into his passion and pride for the club he represented and the players he shared the pitch with.
“One game that does stand out is the 2011 Premiership victory. On the back of the heart-breaking loss to Leicester the previous year we managed to scrape through and to win it. That will stand out to me as my fondest memory albeit that we won it last year.
“The first Premiership trophy was very special because a lot of people doubted us at the time saying we were a flash-in-the-pan and that it won’t last. I’m just delighted we proved the critics wrong.
“A lot of memories I will take with me are the off-field memories. We’ve been fortunate to have had some unbelievable trips all around the world and to share these experiences with some incredible individuals.
“The 11 years I’ve been playing rugby here I’ve probably played with 100 guys and it has been fantastic times. To keep contact with those guys for the next two decades would be brilliant.”
His years at the club have coincided with Saracens transforming from a club with potential to one that has become a dominant force in European rugby.
“I came here in 2006 and if you look at how we performed from then until now, I think we have become a consistent top-four performer. We are there or thereabouts in Europe, we are making the play-offs and since 2009 when Brendan Venter took over with Edward Griffiths that marked a dramatic change in the club.
“I think we created a culture within the club that everybody bought in to and still do. One of incredible work-rate and treating everybody really well and that has stood the club in good stead.”
Neil is also very humbled by the quality of players he has played with. He can list a who’s who of rugby heroes: Richard Hill (“I don’t have to say anything about him”) and Steve Borthwick (“just an incredible captain”) but it is the current crop which excites him the most.
“The Vunipola brothers, Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell are just fantastic rugby players, Alex Goode - I’m very chuffed to have been a part of their careers.
“The future of Saracens is a very exciting one. If you look at the England team that won the Grand Slam, Saracens are the bulk of that pack. You’ve got Owen in the back line and Goode who probably would have been involved, on the fringes.
“I’m very excited to see what Saracens are going to achieve in the next three or four years. We’ve got a good bunch of guys that will carry on flying the flag for Saracens. The trick is to keep that going and to keep churning out players through the academies.”
On Saturday afternoon, we have we have one final chance to appreciate not just the ability of a player like Neil de Kock but the size of his heart. He is a genuine credit to Saracens and for that we are truly blessed.
Don’t miss out on thanking some of Saracens finest players for their tremendous service to the Club on Saturday when the Men in Black face Bristol in the final regular home game of the season at Allianz Park. A limited amount of tickets are still available from saracens.com/tickets.