Burger explains why Saracens’ fourth title was ‘most satisfying’
Schalk Burger believes Saracens’ Premiership Rugby triumph last season was the club’s most satisfying, after bouncing back from their mid-season slump to reclaim the title.
The Men in Black delivered a dominant performance in the final in May as they ran in four tries to defeat defending champions Exeter Chiefs 27-10 at Twickenham.
It was a remarkable turnaround from Mark McCall’s side, having been in danger of slipping out of the top four at the turn of the year after losing three successive league games.
That run came in the middle of a seven-game losing streak in all competitions and speaking at the launch of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures for 2018/19, Burger said the way Saracens won their fourth title made it even more special.
“I’m looking forward to the new season, it’s obviously the start of a long season, but it’s a new challenge after last season ended with success for us,” he said.
“I think it was one of the most satisfying wins the club has had because in the middle of the year we were battling a bit and we weren’t playing too well.
“But we were able to turn it around mid-season and, I think, play some of the best rugby we have as a group together certainly since I’ve been here for the last two years.”
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After losing to Gloucester, Exeter and Harlequins – plus a Champions Cup double-header against Clermont Auvergne – Saracens got back on track by beating Leicester Tigers on Christmas Eve.
They suffered further league defeats to Leicester and Exeter, before winning their final four regular season games in style, scoring 32 tries in the process as they finished second.
A rampant Saracens then added a further six tries in their record-breaking Premiership semi-final victory over Wasps and went on to get revenge over Chiefs in the showpiece final.
And backrow legend Burger, who joined the club after they won their third title in 2016, revealed the squad learned a lot about themselves from their struggles at the end of last year.
“I think the title came off the back of us battling through December and January and the club losing seven on the bounce,” he said. “After that we had to think about how we were going to go forward.
“We found a way to play that suited us and we put our head down and just went for it. We realised there were only a few weeks left of the season and said let’s not die wondering.
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“I suppose the most confusing thing was how inconsistent we were, because the first half of the season we played some really good stuff, then we let it slip, and then played really well.
“So, there was quite a big discrepancy between when we played well and when we played poorly and I think at the end of the season we were outstanding.
“That’s when rugby is easy when you’re playing well, scoring lots of points and getting to the final, that’s the easy part, the tough part is when it’s not going so well.
“I think that December and January were what won us the Premiership, what we decided to get right then and what we worked on, it wasn’t an overnight fix.”
While Burger said the primary aim for Saracens this season will be to retain their title, he expects a completely different challenge will await the defending champions.
“It’s always nice to win, but it’s a new season, a new challenge and we start a fresh, with new sponsor on board as well in Gallagher, so looking forward to it,” he added.