Former Sharks centre Brad Barritt will be looking to lead Saracens to back-to-back European Champions Cup titles when they come up against Clermont at Murrayfield on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Sarries will come into the contest as clear favourites, with the defending champs having achieved an unbeaten 17-match tournament sequence, and they are now looking to join the Leicester Tigers, Leinster and Toulon in successfully defending their title.
The powerful English club have once again laid the foundation for their campaign through resolute defence, which has brought them to the brink of what would be a 100th win overall in European competition.
In fact, this contest should provide a fascinating battle between styles of play, with Clermont having notably scored more tries (16) in the first 40 minutes of their Champions Cup matches than any other team, while Sarries have yet to concede a first-half try.
While Saracens will be looking to defend their title in what will be the third Anglo-French final in the past four seasons, Clermont have set their sights on shedding somewhat of a ‘chokers’ tag.
As it is, Clermont have lost 15 major finals – with just one victory to their name – and came up short against Toulon in the 2013 and 2015 Champions Cup title deciders.
It should all make for an enthralling contest, and Barritt said there was a real sense of excitement around this massive match.
‘Clermont are a great team, who have also shown great strength of character in getting back up there after a few disappointments, and there are two very deserving teams in the final.
‘It doesn't get much bigger in club rugby than this and we are ready for the challenge – we are in a good position.’
In the Saracens side named for the final, Barritt will lead a lineup, including two other South Africans in the run-on XV (Mike Rhodes and Vincent Koch), while Schalk Burger, Petrus du Plessis and Schalk Burger will play off the bench. Meanwhile, South African-born Scott Spedding will start at fullback for Clermont.
Clermont – 15 Scott Spedding, 14 David Strettle, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Rémi Lamerat, 11 Nick Abendanon, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Peceli Yato, 6 Damien Chouly (c), 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Arthur Iturria, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Raphael Chaume
Subs: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Etienne Falgoux, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Alexandre Lapandry, 21 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 22 Pato Fernandez, 23 Damien Penaud
Saracens – 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jackson Wray, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Subs: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Titi Lamositele, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Duncan Taylor
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images