Saracens will break new ground by playing their Heineken Cup Round 5 match against Biarritz Olympique in Cape Town on Saturday, January 14th, 2012.
ERC, organisers of the Heineken Cup, and the IRB have both approved an application by the English champions to play the match in South Africa, further growing the club’s brand, sponsor network and supporter base.
The decision means South Africa will become the 10th country to host action from European rugby’s premier club tournament, which annually sees 24 elite teams from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy compete for the coveted trophy.
Nigel Wray, Saracens chairman, said: “The world is becoming increasingly smaller and well connected, and, as a club, we are committed to thinking big and creating major events that people want to watch. We look forward to proceeding with these exciting plans, expanding the footprint and commercial value of European rugby.”
Two South African-born players, the Leinster duo of Richardt Strauss and Heinke van der Merwe, picked up winners’ medals in last season’s final against Northampton Saints at the Millennium Stadium.
They took the number of South African-born players to have won the Heineken Cup since the inaugural season in 1995 to 10. The full list is:
Mike Catt (Bath – 1998)
Gary Pagel (Northampton Saints – 2000)
Glen Gelderbloom (Leicester Tigers – 2001, 2002)
Stuart Abbott (London Wasps – 2004)
Trevor Halstead (Munster – 2006)
Shaun Payne (Munster – 2006)
Daan Human (Toulouse – 2005, 2010)
Shaun Sowerby (Toulouse – 2010)
Richardt Strauss (Leinster – 2011)
Heinke van der Merwe (Leinster – 2011)
Saracens have a strong South African connection in their side and have added legendary 2007 World Cup winning Springbok skipper John Smit to their squad for the new season. He will be one of 13 South African-born players in a squad which boasts former Springbok Brendan Venter as Technical Director.
Biarritz Olympique, who have contested two Heineken Cup finals, have two South African-born players in their squad – prop Eduard Coetzee and fellow front row man Albertus Buckle.