Springbok Koch claims to know rivals’ secret game plans
Vincent Koch says South Africa’s intimate knowledge of Saracens’ systems and game plans, accrued over many years of playing in the Premiership, will help them to “manage” England in Saturday’s World Cup final.
The Premiership champions’ fingerprints are all over Eddie Jones’s England – the club has nine players in the 31-man squad, with six likely to start on Saturday.
“When we look at them we can see a lot of similarities [between how they play],” Koch said. “Our focus is mainly on us. We know what they are going to bring. If it is the Sarries way or the England way, we need to match that. [But yes] there a few things we saw that Saracens do that we can manage. We are ready for that; different jerseys, but similar game plans.”
Koch is one of a number of Springboks who play in England. Veteran hooker Schalk Brits is an even more effective double agent, having just returned from a near 10-year stint with Saracens, making more than 200 appearances.
Faf de Klerk (Sale), Francois Louw (Bath), Franco Mostert (Gloucester) and Cobus Reinach (Northampton) also all ply their trade in the Premiership. Koch, one of South Africa’s so-called “Bomb Squad” – the name given to their forward replacements – said he felt he had improved as a player since moving to Saracens in 2016.
“Moving was a big decision,” the 29-year-old said. “They have worked on me to try to make me the perfect player. They’ve made me work harder, mentally prepared me for big games. Moving abroad made me an all-round better player.”
Asked about the prospect of coming up against Saracens teammate Mako Vunipola, Koch smiled. “I’ve scrummed quite a lot against him in training. Same with Joe Marler. I know exactly what they do. It’s going to be exciting to go up against them again. This is different. It’s not a training field. It’s a big test.”
De Klerk also this week credited his time in the Premiership with improving him as a player, adding that he hoped to use the lessons he has learnt against England.
“Your game understanding changes over there [England],” he said. “As a nine it is about reading the conditions and how the game flows. Should we attack more? Should we kick more? Put them under pressure in certain areas? Then playing against the guys – we know there will be a lot of Sarries guys.”