Abu Dhabi Saracens rocked as foursome depart and head to rivals Harlequins

Matt Jones 20:33 13/06/2017
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Garth van Niekirk is one of several high-profile Sarries' departures

Abu Dhabi Saracens have suffered a body blow after several big players announced their departures this week.

Powerhouse props Craig Nutt and Murray Reason – who earned his UAE debut during May’s Asia Rugby Championship Division II campaign in Malaysia – have left, as have pivotal centres Sean Stevens and Garth van Niekirk.

What will be even more of a bitter pill to swallow for the Al Ghazal outfit is that all four are expected to sign with capital city rivals Harlequins for the 2017/18 season.

“Nutty, Muzza, Sean and Garth, plus some lads, are going to head to Quins,” revealed Sarries chairman Jay Danielson.

“They gave some weak reasons around UAE selection opportunities and that they didn’t think Sarries would be competitive (next season).  They are taking the easy option rather than some hard graft to build something great, which is the kind of attitude I can do without.”

It follows on from a hugely disappointing campaign for Sarries, who finished bottom of both the UAE Premiership and West Asia Premiership tables with just three wins from 20 games in both competitions.

Their final placings don’t tell the tale of how competitive they were – with seven games lost by seven points or less – but it was a drastic fall from grace following lifting the West Asia crown two years ago.

With rugby in the Emirates creeping ever closer towards professionalism, Sarries were left ruthlessly exposed last season by the progress made by many opponents.

But Danielson admitted he and the club are busy recruiting for next season, with second row Alex Gonzalez returning to the club following a season out injured, as well as former Arabian Gulf international Loky Al Ganas.

“We have been doing some recruiting lately and have ex-Gulf representative Loky joining us, plus Alex coming back,” added the Australian.

“We have quite a few international prospects too but I can’t confirm those yet.

“Alex played with us in our West Asia Championship-winning year, he’s a long time Saracens stalwart. He’s been out with injury until now.  We’re glad to have the long-haired maniac back. He’s a great lad.

“Loky played for the Arabian Gulf Under-19s and then went to South Africa to study. He’s now back in town and keen.”

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