Former England and British and Irish Lion Matt Stevens, speaking exclusively to GiveMeSport, has reflected upon 'an incredible year for Saracens,' but as the business end of the season approaches, he admits it will count for nothing without silverware.
The 31-year-old South African-born prop, who earned 44 caps for England after moving over to study at Bath University, said: "It’s a great bunch of people here and we’ve worked very hard to get to this moment, but it’s down to finals rugby and it really is make or break."
Saracen's will entertain Harlequins at Allianz Park on Saturday afternoon in the second semi-final of the Aviva Premiership, with a place in the final at Twickenham on May 31 at stake.
“Home advantage is definitely a massive advantage, I can’t deny that," he said. "Quins have hit good form in the last five weeks and they are a very dangerous team. They have game breakers throughout their 15 that can score from anywhere, so you’ve got to be alive as a team to beat them.
“We’ve gone through as much detail as we possible can to understand how Quins will play against us. Having said that, we’ve played them so many times over the last four seasons, we know their style of playing, but it’s just about being able to nullify their star players but that’s very difficult."
Stevens, who enjoyed at an eight-year stay at Bath before moving to London, hailed the culture surrounding Saracens and has also hailed this as one of the reasons for their recent success.
"Saracen’s is a special place. It’s been very good to me and all the players that play here. They‘ve tried to create a culture, which is pretty unique in sport, often sports people are treated like a commodity, like a piece of meat, but what they’ve tried to do here is create a support structure for both players and families, essentially trying to buy loyalty from the players," he explained.
"When your backs against the wall in a game and you’re looking for that extra five percent, after you’ve already given 100%, how do you do that? It’s often the guys that care more about where they’re from and that what’s they’ve tried to create at Saracens. It’s a culture of caring. We all care about each other and we all care about Saracen’s as a brand and as a culture because Saracens care about us.
“I think it is the reason why we have been successful. I’m not saying it’s the only way to be successful, because it’s not, there are many different types of ways. I’m just proud that we have had success and hopefully we have more success in the culture we have now.”
Saracens cruised into their first ever Heineken Cup final last month, following a 46-6 annihilation of Clermont Auvergne, as they look to become the last winners of the competition before the introduction of the Rugby Champions Cup next season.
As for Stevens, the prop is eyeing a League and European Cup double before he ends his stay in northern hemisphere rugby, before joining Jake White's Natal Sharks in his native Durban.