Stadium row forces Saracens to abandon South Africa tie but they plan to be back

SARACENS chief executive Edward Griffiths insists the club will resurrect attempts to hold a European tie in South Africa, despite yesterday’s dramatic U-turn which saw the Premiership champions axe January’s Heineken Cup match at Cape Town Stadium.

The groundbreaking fixture against Biarritz, due to take place on 14 January, had sparked a row in South Africa between rival stadium owners.

Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU), owners of traditional rugby venue Newlands Stadium, were angered that Cape Town Stadium, an arena specifically constructed to host football ahead of the 2010 World Cup, had been selected to stage the match.

In a statement Saracens outlined their determination not to be seen as “a catalyst for conflict” but Griffiths told City A.M. that the club will revisit the prospect of playing abroad again, with Cape Town the preferred city.

“It’s a great disappointment,” he said. “Having jumped through so many hoops to get to this stage it’s not nice that we’ve been denied at the last.

“We could look at taking the game elsewhere but Cape Town is the ideal platform. Durban is prohibitively hot at this time of year and it would be difficult to play there.

“Hopefully local circumstances will ease over time and we can explore the option again at some point. We’ve worked very hard to get this far and I’m conscious of that work not being wasted. When the local circumstances allow, hopefully we’ll be able to put this plan into action again.”

Saracens announced Cape Town Stadium as the venue last week and despite the abandonment, Griffiths denied his club were guilty of jumping the gun.

He said: “No, I don’t think we were too hasty. The WPRFU is effectively run by two bodies. Our point of contact all the way along had been the commercial arm and they had indicated that permission had been granted to play at Cape Town Stadium.”

Saracens will refund around 100 fans who had bought tickets and flights. Meanwhile, hooker Schalk Brits has been banned from playing until 8 December after pleading guilty to a dangerous tackle during last Sunday’s win against Treviso.