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Burger: Saracens must improve to stay ahead of chasing pack

Schalk Burger at the Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures launch

Schalk Burger at the Gallagher Premiership Rugby fixtures launch

Schalk Burger knows defending Gallagher Premiership Rugby champions Saracens cannot afford to rest on their laurels if they are to remain ahead of the chasing pack next season.

The 35-year-old flanker was speaking at the launch of the fixtures for the 2018/19 campaign at BT Tower, where it was revealed that Saracens will start with a trip to Newcastle Falcons.

Mark McCall’s side will then welcome newcomers Bristol Bears to Allianz Park as they set about retaining the title they won at Twickenham in May with a 27-10 victory over Exeter Chiefs.

But despite having won the league three times in the past four seasons, Burger is not taking anything for granted and said Saracens are only focused on improving once again.

“All of us are working to become a better side and we’re obviously at the forefront of it, but we’re not guaranteed to stay at the forefront,” he said.

“It’s always tough staying ahead because you’re obviously doing something right and you believe in your systems and your structures and the people within your group.

“You need a target for others to catch so if you don’t carry on evolving or improving the others are going to catch up and the difference between us and the next team is almost nothing.

“It’s so tight, it’s so competitive across the board, from the bottom placed side to the top placed side, so it’s a long season and we can’t get ahead of ourselves.

“We got to know where our strengths lie and try and improve, everyone one of us has to improve to stay ahead of the chasing pack.

“One of our strengths is that we don’t get ahead of ourselves, so as much as we want that trophy we have to go out and earn it, it’s not just going to happen.

“There are a lot of big games in the season and it’s important to get off to a good start, but every time during the season there are times when you get setbacks through injuries or not playing well.

“I’m certainly not looking too far ahead, we just want to get off to a good start and take it game by game. We’ll have a better idea after that first game, against Newcastle away, where we’re at.”

Other notable dates in the diary for Saracens fans include the first London derby of the season with Harlequins, which is scheduled for the first weekend of October at Twickenham Stoop.

The champions will have to wait until the Christmas period before facing last season’s beaten finalists Chiefs again at Sandy Park, while they meet Sale Sharks in the first game of 2019.

And although Saracens defence coach Alex Sanderson is confident his side have the ability and right mental approach to hold on to their title, he said it is much too soon to be thinking about silverware.

“Although the intention is to start where we left off, there is always a bit of rebuilding to be done and finding your feet in the first weeks of the season to see what the competition is like and which teams have really stepped it up,” he said.

“We know if we perform to the best of our ability and we have good luck with injuries and we stay strong and tight as a team, not just as players, we’re going to be there or thereabouts.

“I think that’s the key, every good team gives themselves a chance to win it come the business end of the season and to do that we don’t target games per month.

“We just look to win every game and take it week by week. That approach has served us well for ten years and that’s what we will continue to do.”

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