Saracens warm up for Heineken Cup clash with Jonny by declaring: We are the crocodiles of chaos

By Ian Stafford


Saracens have dubbed themselves the 'Crocodiles of Chaos' after their preparations for today's Heineken Cup semi-final against Jonny Wilkinson's Toulon featured a crocodile and a tarantula.

It was the latest animal-related ruse by coaches Paul Gustard and Alex Sanderson, who this season have brought wolves to Allianz Park to turn his hard tacklers into a 'wolf pack', as well as a mouse-eating anaconda and frogs, all designed to relax the team before a big game and get some key messages across.

Crocodile rock: Mako Vunipola (left), Owen Farrell (centre) and Steve Borthwick (right) are ready for Toulon

Crocodile rock: Mako Vunipola (left), Owen Farrell (centre) and Steve Borthwick (right) are ready for Toulon

The latest animal tale employed the services of TV nature personality 'Safari Pete', who went to the club's training ground in St Albans where, first, former Springbok captain John Smit, on the bench today, gave a presentation holding a small crocodile.

'It was a baby crocodile about a metre long with sharp teeth,' said England and Saracens centre Brad Barritt.

'John held the croc up in front of us, clamped its mouth with one hand and explained how crocodiles can cause chaos. This is what we intend to do against Toulon. We want to be crocodiles of chaos.

'John pointed out, though, how to quell the chaos, too, by clamping its mouth. That's what we need to do to Toulon. Clamp their mouths.

'It was a different and fun way to get across an important message - though nobody else wanted to get up and hold the croc.'

Next up was a 'large and hairy' tarantula, held in the palm of his large hand by a nervous Ernst Joubert, who starts today as No 8.

Put it there: Jonny Wilkinson of Toulon poses alongside Steve Borthwick of Saracens

Put it there: Jonny Wilkinson of Toulon poses alongside Steve Borthwick of Saracens

Barritt added: 'The message this time was, like Ernst, we needed to be fearless in the face of anything thrown at us. On Friday it was a tarantula. On Sunday it's Jonny and the rest of a massively impressive Toulon team.

'We've had wolves, snakes and frogs before, but this time the coaches surpassed themselves.'

Gustard's innovative training methods have impressed England head coach Stuart Lancaster so much that he has asked him to stand in for Lions-bound Andy Farrell for this summer's tour to Argentina.

Explaining the 'wolf-pack' idea, Gustard said: 'I wanted to give a meaning to it, a heartbeat and a soul. It represented our mentality - we have to hunt people and, when we get there, we have to be savage.

'We had a team meeting with live wolves before the Harlequins game. You want people to remember things. They hear me for 50 weeks of the year and I do two or three presentations a week. You want something to stand out and it was the first opportunity post-Six Nations to get everyone back into the groove and do what we want.'

A big hit: Brad Barritt

A big hit: Brad Barritt

Saracens must today see off a side full of global superstars who lie second in France's Top 14, beat Leicester in the quarter-final and, aside from the likes of Matt Giteau, Mathieu Bastareaud, Bakkies Botha, Juan Marin Fernandez Lobbe and Delon Armitage, feature Wilkinson who Barritt holds in the highest esteem.

'When I was 16 in South Africa, I watched Jonny win the World Cup with that drop-goal. As I developed into a professional player, I and my colleagues respected Jonny so much, not just for his kicking, but his commitment in the tackle, which has changed the way stand-offs play,' says Barritt, 26.

'I love to make a big hit. It can change the momentum of a match, so nobody admires Jonny's willingness and ability to make hard tackles more than me.

'It will be interesting to see how we fare if we have a coming together, but what I do know is that we can't afford to give any penalties away inside our own half. If we do, he'll destroy us as he did Leicester.'

Barritt believes Aviva Premiership leaders Saracens hold two advantages. The first is the venue, which his team-mates are more familiar with after numerous England appearances and a quarter-final win over Ulster three weeks ago.

The second is Sarries' dogged mentality, a trademark this season marked best by their Owen Farrell-inspired win in Nantes after Racing Metro threatened to overwhelm them.

'That win over Racing epitomised what we're all about. We never lost our cool, we kept our belief and as we grew stronger, they weakened. I expect a similar mental challenge against Toulon. They will have to play 80 minutes before they beat us.'

Barritt also knows this is a final shop window before the British and Irish Lions squad is announced on Tuesday and the man who, as an 11- year-old boy, sat in the stands in Durban as Jerry Guscott's rare drop-goal won the 1997 Test series against South Africa, is desperate to play. 'It would be a dream,' he said.

'With an English mother and grandparents I was not that unhappy seeing the Boks lose, more excited about seeing a team that comes to South Africa once every 12 years.

'I watched every game on TV, and the second Test live at the ground. I hope I've done enough to get the call. But Sunday is all about beating Toulon, not Lions selection.'

But if Saracens win, their coaches will have to better crocodiles and tarantulas before May's final. The mind boggles.


The comments below have not been moderated.

I don't know about being crocodiles but their backline was chaotic. Unfortunately the dominant man on the pitch was Roland.

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Just watching Sarries choke, I see Farrell is up to his old tricks of blocking the man. A great footballer but sadly not a great sportsman.

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They may be, but they are no advert for modern rugby.

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They may be, but they are not advert for modern rugby.

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That's the Sarries - Gob off, but can they deliver

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Saracens have about as much show of winning as a crocodile has of surviving in the Thames, and 'sadly' there will be no swallow dive.

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