AMIDST the furore and the mud-slinging, at least one good thing has come out of Brendan Venter’s failed attempt to attend Sunday’s Guinness Premiership final – he won’t have to fork out for a babysitter!
The Saracens director of rugby lost his appeal to overturn a 14-week coaching ban on Wednesday night after an RFU disciplinary panel found him guilty of “making provocative and inappropriate gestures” during the league game with Leicester on 8 May.
But although clearly riled by being denied the opportunity to lead the Sarries out for their first-ever Premiership final against the Tigers at Twickenham on Sunday, the City.A.M columnist insists it’s not all doom and gloom.
“It’ll save me hiring a babysitter,” the laid back Venter joked. “My wife and son will be there at the game, but I’ll just sit at home and watch it with the other boy.”
Asked if he’ll be shouting and throwing things at the TV set, he replied: “No, there’s no sense in that, it just breaks it. Watching at home is not something I’ve ever done before and I’m not expecting it to be easy, but I’ve got full faith in the players and coaches to do the job the other side of the screen.”
The charge and subsequent punishment has prompted a war of words between club and governing body with Sarries chief executive Edward Griffiths describing the RFU’s decision to ban Venter on Sunday as “disproportionate”.
Indeed, Venter himself believes the RFU have missed out on an opportunity to soothe things over before Sunday’s showcase event. “It was missed opportunity to put things right, to rebuild relations between the two parties” the South African added. “Reducing the ban from 14 weeks to 10 was a good idea, but the fact that the powers at be have to act in the way they have questions their motives.
“I was never given details as to the severity of my crime and, for my mind, the punishment certainly didn’t fit the crime.”
Venter’s focus is now purely on guiding Sarries to a first Premiership success and a first major trophy since their Tetley’s Bitter Cup victory in 1998. “We couldn’t have asked for a better final,” he went on. “What better way than to move forward with out development than to beat the best team in a packed house at Twickenham? Leicester are a fantastic all-round rugby side – very strong defensively and in the set-piece, and play a very good kicking game.
“They are used to the big final atmosphere, having been there several times before, but one thing about playing and winning four times at Wembley this season is that it shows that we can also adapt. We have big game players who are used to that arena so I don’t feel that will be a problem for us. We also beat Leicester at Welford Road for the first time ever just two weeks ago and that gives us a massive psychological advantage.”
Venter is also encouraged by the return of talismanic Steve Borthwick, and believes the England captain can give his side that extra edge.
“Steve’s been brilliant in training this week,” he added. “He hasn’t played for a while but in big games you need to play your best side and it would have been ludicrous not to play Steve with the influence he has.”