Van Velze to spoil Sarries' party
Van Velze to spoil Sarries' partySHARE
It may be in the middle of the Christmas season, but the Premiership doesn't allow off weeks.
For Northampton Saints, who are still fresh from their top-of-the-table clash with pace-setting Harlequins, comes another huge challenge in the shape of second-placed Saracens at stadium:mk on Sunday.
And former Blue Bull No.8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze says there's no reason why Saints can't beat Saracens – a team who are littered with fellow South Africans.
Van Velze was in the Northampton side which suffered a heartbreaking 9-18 defeat to the Premiership champions, Quins, at Franklin's Gardens last Saturday.
The boot of Nick Evans decided that one as the Kiwi kicker landed six penalties to secure the victory for his team.
This week they are up against a very different team, but an equally formidable foe.
Saracens have scored the least tries in the league (10), but they've also lost the fewer number of games (two) than anyone else.
That is thanks largely to the Premiership's meanest defence – Saracens have shipped just nine tries – and their ability to turn pressure into points from the tee.
Only Exeter and Worcester on the road have got the better of Mark McCall's side, who have won away from home at the Stoop and Franklin's Gardens.
A nine-all draw with Leicester at Wembley is so far the only game Saracens have not won at 'home' in the Premiership and in Europe.
However, Van Velze retains belief in his side and he feels they can triumph at stadium:mk this weekend if they hit the levels expected of them.
"We've got very high standards and we want to keep to them," the former Bulls forward told the Northampton Chronicle & Echo.
"We don't want to go two steps forward and one step back so we'll work on our performances and standards and there's no reason to think it won't go right on Sunday."
Van Velze knows exactly what Saints need to do to spoil Sarries' party.
"Saracens are very physical, they defend very well, they've got good line speed and they play off our errors so we need to look after the ball and just be physical and in their faces."
England flyhalf Charlie Hodgson was the focus of all the plaudits in Saracens' Round 11 22-0 win over Bath.
However while it was Hodgson's kicking which received the praise the man himself insisted that Saracens' performance was based on more than just him.
"You can't just rely on your kicking game; you have to be able to put yourself in good positions to kick well in the first place," he commented. "If you can attack using the ball in hand, why not? You just have to be more precise and slightly less ambitious.
"I thought we played some fine rugby at times. We are delighted with that performance, the Rec is no easy place to come and win. This is a crucial time of the season, it's so tight up there among the top-eight teams and we felt this was a vital match for us."