Premiership: Springbok prop Vincent Koch on challenging period and how thankful he is to Saracens coaches

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Saracens prop Vincent Koch has said mentally tough times during relegation have spurred the club on as they prepare for Saturday’s Premiership final.

The Rugby World Cup winner will be looking to sign off with another title this weekend as he bids farewell to Saracens for a move to Wasps in 2022/23.

That would be Saracens‘ sixth Premiership trophy in 12 campaigns, but standing in their way at Twickenham will be a high-flying Leicester Tigers side.

It’s quite the revival after repeated salary cap breaches led to the club being relegated to the Championship in 2020, with Koch recalling a tough spell.

Heat from the media

“It was a challenging time for us, I won’t lie,” he said.

“Mentally, it was tough. We got all the heat from the media, which wasn’t great, but it brought us closer as a group.

“We knew that people from the outside were not going to say great things about us, but we had to stick in the group together. Our main focus was to prove a point this year in the Premiership.

“When you go down to the Championship, it’s easy for people to jump the ship, but if you look at the players, everyone stayed – internationals, British Lions stayed at the club – which just shows there is something special.

“You have to get some feedback to grow. Bad things don’t always pull you down – they are something to grow on.

“The bad words said to us made us stronger, tougher. In the six years I have been here, there hasn’t always been positive feedback towards Saracens, but it definitely played a role in where we are as a team.”

Koch was part of South Africa‘s World Cup winning side in 2019 that won the final against England but he admits a lot of his success is down to Saracens.

“I remember that I joined the club in 2016 after the autumn internationals, when I was with the Springboks,” he added.

“I didn’t play for eight weeks, and Mark’s words were ‘we think you are a good player, but we just don’t think you work hard enough’.

“For me, that was a massive eye-opener. Coming from an international set-up, I thought I would probably be the full package, but they were like ‘you don’t work hard enough’.

“I had a nice chat with them and they said they wanted to make me a better player, and they invested so much time in me.

“The things like kick-chase and how hard can you work off the ball.

“For a tighthead prop, that is something people don’t really expect you to do, but if you can do it, it just stands out. They have made me a better player.

“Back in South Africa, I didn’t really win any trophies at club level.

“Coming to an environment and club like this, managing to play with world-class players at club level and of course the victories, it has just been unbelievable.

“It is all credit to the squad and the management who were able to build the squad and keep them through the tough times.”

READ MORE: Saracens: Maro Itoje always confident his club would be back amongst Premiership’s best


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