Sale Sharks scrum-half Peter Stringer is warning his teammates that the next few weeks will be absolutely vital if they are to break into the Aviva Premiership Rugby’s top four this term.
Steve Diamond’s side return to league action on Sunday when they host table-topping Saracens, after winning one game from two during the Anglo-Welsh Cup fortnight.
But after a promising start to the campaign, Sale currently sit fifth in the Aviva Premiership Rugby standings, just one point behind fourth-placed Leicester Tigers.
And while they are already 11 points behind last year’s champions, former Ireland international Stringer knows that if Sale are to mount a top-four challenge, now is the perfect time in the season to do so.
“It’s a massive opportunity against Saracens,” he said. “But looking through their team, given the strength and depth that they have, they’re full of international players to call upon in the absence of the guys who are away with England. They’re still the top team to beat.
“It’s a huge part of the season for us. I think given where we are in the league, we’ve had a bit of a mixed start to the season.
— Sale Sharks (@SaleSharksRugby) November 16, 2016
“We’ve found a small bit of form and find ourselves now in fifth so it’s a matter of progressing from there and trying to push into that top four if we can.
“But coming up to this Christmas period it’s huge; if we can come into the New Year there or thereabouts where we want to be, it’s a really good platform for us.
“This time during the autumn internationals when we have our core group of players together, it’s important that we just drive on and push into that top four.”
This weekend’s clash at the AJ Bell Stadium is the first of three clashes between Sale and Saracens over the coming month – as the two sides will lock horns in back-to-back European Champions Cup fixtures during December.
— Sale Sharks (@SaleSharksRugby) November 17, 2016
And while the look of Mark McCall’s side will become ever more familiar to the Sharks, Stringer insists his side will not be preoccupied with targeting individual results.
He added: “The coaches probably have an overall view of that mindset going forward.
“But I think as players, after coming off the back of a defeat against Bristol, it’s very much, ‘we play Saracens on Sunday, and the other two games against Saracens will look after themselves when they come round’.
“It’s this Sunday that is all we’re concerned with and we’ll try not to look beyond that, because we have a smaller squad compared to a lot of other teams.
“It’s really game-by-game for us and obviously Aviva Premiership Rugby is the next focus.”