Preview: Premiership, Round five
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: After suffering their first defeat of the season, Saracens hope to bounce back when they travel to take on Bristol Rugby at Ashton Gate.
The defending Premiership champions had won their last 13 games in all competitions but the unbeaten start to the season was brought to a halt by a brilliant first-half display from Harlequins as they claimed a 17-10 win at the Stoop.
Despite suffering his first defeat with the club, Springbok Schalk Burger relishes the challenges of Premiership Rugby and admits the differences to south of the equator are stark, the Saracens flanker claims he is enjoying the transition.
He joined a team coming off the most successful season in their history as Mark McCall’s troops lifted the Premiership Rugby and European Rugby Champions Cup trophies.
And after starring in the opening exchanges of this campaign for Sarries, the 86-cap Springbok admits he has had to adapt to the more territory-based style of play in the northern hemisphere.
"The difference [between the northern and southern hemisphere] is just the mindset and where you play your rugby," said Burger.
"Over here, more teams want to play the territory game, therefore your structure of exiting is different to what happens in Super Rugby.
"In Super Rugby it’s more about possession – territory doesn’t come into it until maybe later in the game when you’re trying to close it out.
"The work-rate in Super Rugby is different because the work-rate goes into ball carrying, getting the ball in your hand and playing a few phases before trying to exit.
"Here, your work-rate is more into creating a good defensive line, good line-speed and obviously chasing kicks.
"The different style of play doesn’t affect me too much. At the Stormers we got our energy out of carrying the ball, whereas Saracens get their energy in a different way – from exiting while putting teams under pressure.
"The big thing is to align where I expend my energy with the rest of the team. I think I’ve picked that up pretty quickly and it has been really enjoyable to play so far,"
At 33 years old and having won the World Cup with South Africa in 2007, Burger is one of the more experienced heads in the Saracens dressing room but he has been impressed by the young talent on show at the club.
"Saracens won Europe and the Premiership, so these players are super-talented,” he added.
"They’re at a good age as well – in their mid-20s. They are hard-working and the days where certain countries have superior athletes are gone.
"The blokes here are super-talented athletes and they’ve got a great attitude about improving and working on their weaknesses.
"For me, there has been a nice energy since coming in and changing teams. You get to a stage where you need to change things up and get a bit of extra energy, so I’m feeding off them and learning a new culture over here,"
We take a look at all the Round Five action!
Friday, September 30
Bristol Rugby v Saracens
(Ashton Gate, Bristol - Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 GMT)
Bristol Rugby have lost all four matches in Premiership Rugby this year, although they did attain a losing bonus point in Round one, and have three times finished a game on three tries. Bristol have not been victorious at Ashton Gate since last season’s RFU Championship semifinal second leg against Bedford.
Saracens 13 match winning run in all competitions ended at Harlequins on Saturday. Sarries have not lost successive Premiership Rugby encounters since May 2015.
Saracens have won their last four encounters with Bristol in all competitions, the most recent of which was at Vicarage Road in January 2009. Bristol’s last win against Saracens was at the Memorial Stadium
in January 2008.
Bristol: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Ryan Edwards, 13 Jack Tovey, 12 Will Hurrell, 11 Charlie Amesbury, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Jordan Crane, 7 Jack Lam (captain), 6 Jon Fisher, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 James Phillips, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Ross McMillan, 1 Kyle Traynor
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Gaston Cortes, 19 Joe Joyce, 20 Mitch Eadie, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Adrian Jarvis, 23 Jack Wallace
Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Matt Gallagher, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Petrus De Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Michael Rhodes, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Marcelo Bosch, 23 George Perkins.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Jonathan Healy, Paul Burton
TMO: Stuart Terheege
Northampton Saints v Exeter Chiefs
(Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton - Kick-off: 19.45; 18.45 GMT)
Northampton Saints’ only victory in the first four rounds of Premiership Rugby was on their visit to Bristol in Round two. The Saints have narrowly lost both fixtures at Franklin’s Gardens this season but have not lost three in a row at the venue in Premiership Rugby since February 2011.
Exeter Chiefs have beaten Harlequins at home and Bristol away in Round three and four of Premiership Rugby, but have not managed to win successive away games in the competition since December 2015.
Exeter Chiefs have lost only one of their last four Premiership Rugby encounters with Saints 8-3 in this equivalent fixture at Franklin’s Gardens on New Year’s Day. Exeter’s solitary win in their eight previous visits to Northampton in competitive rugby was 24-18 in Premiership Rugby in November
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden(captain), 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Harry Mallinder, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Sam Dickinson, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Ahsee Tuala
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Henry Slade, 11 Ian Whitten, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Kai Horstmann, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Jack Yeandle(captain), 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Ben White, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Sam Hill, 23 Jack Nowell.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Gareth Copsey, Simon McConnell
TMO: Graham Hughes
Saturday, October 1
Sale Sharks v Leicester Tigers
(AJ Bell Stadium, Sale - Kick-off: 14.30; 13.30 GMT)
Sale Sharks drew 34-all at Worcester on Saturday but their only victory in the opening four rounds Premiership Rugby was when they entertained Harlequins in Round two. The Sharks have lost three of their last five matches at AJ Bell Stadium in all tournaments.
Leicester Tigers’ solitary reversal so far this season came when Wasps visited Welford Road on September 10. The Tigers have won their last two away games in Premiership Rugby but have not won three in a row on their travels in the competition since March 2014.
Sale achieved a Premiership Rugby double over Leicester last season for the first time since 2007/08 whilst the only other occasion that they have ever beaten Tigers in three successive fixtures was between 1974-76. Tigers record at AJ Bell Stadium is won three, lost one.
Sale Sharks: 15 Byron McGuigan, 14 Nev Edwards, 13 Will Addison, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Paolo Odogwu, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Josh Beaumont (captain), 7 David Seymour, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Jonathan Mills, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 17 Halani Aulika, 18 Andrei Ostrikov, 19 Laurence Pearce, 20 Magnus Lund, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Dan Mugford, 23 Sam Bedlow
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veauinu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Mathew Tait, 11 Tom Brady, 10 Owen Williams 9 Ben Youngs,8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Mike Fitzgerald, 4 Ed Slater (captain), 3 Dan Cole, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Logovi'i Mulipola, 18 Greg Bateman, 19 Dom Barrow, 20 Graham Kitchener, 21 Jono Kitto, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Matt Smith
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Wayne Falla, Peter Allan
TMO: Geoffrey Warren
Gloucester Rugby v Bath Rugby
(Kingsholm, Gloucester - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Gloucester Rugby have won just one of their last five Premiership Rugby fixtures a 26-13 at Sale Sharks in Round three is the only victory for Gloucester, whilst their solitary victory at Kingsholm in the last six matches in all tournaments was against Exeter on April 15.
Bath Rugby’s winning start to the new Premiership Rugby campaign came to halt at Leicester on Sunday. Bath’s only victory in their last four away games was on their visit to Franklin’s Gardens in Round one.
Bath have lost just one of their last seven encounters with Gloucester in Premiership Rugby, it was a 11-15 at the Recreation Ground in Round 11 last season. Bath have won on their last four visits to Kingsholm in
Gloucester: 15 James Hook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Matt Scott, 23 David Halaifonua
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Aled Brew, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Anthony Watson, 10 George Ford (co-captain), 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Tom Ellis, 6 Matt Garvey (co-captain), 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Rory Jennings, 23 Jeff Williams
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant referees: Ross Campbell, Roy Maybank
TMO: David Grashoff
Sunday, October 2
Wasps v Harlequins
(Ricoh Arena, Wasps - Kick-off: 14.30; 13.30 GMT)
Wasps are now the only club left in Premiership Rugby who are unbeaten this season which coincides with their best start to a league campaign since 1996/97. Wasps have won their last eleven matches at Ricoh Arena in all tournaments.
Harlequins toppled champions Saracens from the top of the table with their 17-10 victory at Twickenham Stoop on Saturday, but away from home have won only once in Premiership Rugby since early January and that was 32-25 at London Irish on May 1.
Wasps have won just one of their last four fixtures against Quins in all tournaments it was 21-26 at The Stoop in October 2015. Harlequins have lost both of their previous visits to Ricoh Arena, conceding a try bonus point on each occasion.
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 Sam Jones, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Ashley Johnson, 1 Matt Mullan (captain)
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Marty Moore, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Kyle Eastmond, 23 Frank Halai
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Alofa Alofa, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 James Chisholm, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 George Merrick, 3 Will Collier, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 James Lang, 23 Winston Stanley
Referee: Gregory M Garner
Assistant referees: John Meredith, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Trevor Fisher
Worcester Warriors v Newcastle Falcons
(Sixways, Worcester - Kick-off: 15.00; 14.00 GMT)
Worcester Warriors are without a victory in their last eight Premiership Rugby matches, however they have achieved a draw in each of their two most recent encounters at Sixways.
Newcastle Falcons doubled their tally of wins so far this season with their 18-13 victory at Gloucester on Saturday. The Falcons have not won successive away games in the same season of Premiership Rugby since 2011/12.
Worcester’s only defeat in their last seven Premriship Rugby fixtures with Falcons was 11-16 at Sixways in October 2013.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Phil Dowson (captain), 7 Carl Kirwan, 6 Alafoti Faosiliva, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Jaba Bregvadze, 17 Na’ama Leleimalefaga, 18 James Johnston, 19 Christian Scotland-Williamson, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Josh Adams
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Dominic Waldouck, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch (captain), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Evan Olmstead, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 David Wilson, 19 Will Witty, 20 Daniel Temm, 21 Michael Young, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Belisario Agulla
Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant referees: Phillip Watters, Kevin Stewart
TMO: Keith Lewis