Should Saracens beat defending champions Harlequins in their Premiership semi-final this weekend, they’ll be the first team to reach the showpiece Twickenham final at the first attempt following promotion from the Championship.
Mark McCall’s men have come back into the top flight with a vengeance this season. And while they’ll be disappointed to have missed out on the European Challenge Cup, the Premiership is the one that matters.
To silence their critics by lifting the trophy would be the perfect way to announce their return to the big time.
Saracens must topple champs
But first they need to overcome Harlequins – the team who last year went away from home in the semi-finals and beat then top-of-the-table Bristol Bears.
We’re set for a cracker tomorrow afternoon in north London as Quins’ creativity comes up against Sarries’ defensive expertise.
The key to deciding who makes the short trip to Twickenham next week could be the set piece. Saracens are stable and have the workhorses throughout their front eight to capitalise on any Quins weakness.
The north Londoners also have incredible front-rowers to spare, whereas Quins may lose a little on the bench.
But if Harlequins manage to get the ball away and operate smoothly at the set piece then their blistering backs can expose Saracens.
While I think Saracens have enough experience to overcome the danger of broken play, their opponents have proved time and time again – against strong opposition – that they are able to find holes and get on the outside to rip it up.
Some of the battles in the match, too, should be superb. The in-form Billy Vunipola – who simply must be in Eddie Jones’s England plans for the summer tour to Australia – goes head-to-head with Alex Dombrandt, Marcus Smith will try to out-manoeuvre Owen Farrell, while top try scorer Max Malins will look to add to his tally of 16.
The one area that could let Saracens down has been a little bit of a worry for them for a couple of years now. When they were flying high in Europe, it was Brad Barritt at No12 who gave them their thrust – often a man possessed.
But the tables have turned and it’s Harlequins who have that talisman in Andre Esterhuizen. The bulldozing South African has been mightily impressive all season and is at the heart of so much that Quins do right.
I think Leicester Tigers will sneak a win in the East Midlands derby against Northampton Saints and my head tells me that it will be Saracens who’ll meet them at Twickenham.
The purist in me would want to see Saints play Quins – that’s a festival of rugby we could only wish for – but when push comes to shove it will likely be the two stable, pragmatic, safe sides who’ll be looking to add to their trophy cabinet come this time next week.
Former England Sevens captain Ollie Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, experts in leadership development and behavioural change. Follow Ollie on Twitter and on LinkedIn.