New Zealand’s Sitiveni Sivivatu is the dangerman Saracens must contain in their European Cup semi-final with Clermont at Twickenham on Saturday, according to coach Mark McCall.
Although it is nearly three years since Sivivatu won the last of his 45 All Black caps, the 32-year-old Fiji-born flyer remains one of the most-potent attacking threats in European rugby.
“You wouldn’t concentrate on one person but, if someone is going to pull a rabbit out of a hat, it’s going to be Sivivatu,” McCall told reporters at Saracens’ training ground in St Albans, north-west of London, on Tuesday.
“He is amazing. He’s got the most metres and offloads in the Heineken (European) Cup and he pops up where you least expect him.
“If you switch off for just one second and you don’t stay alive and in the moment, he will hurt you.
“They (Clermont) have got a few players like that, but he’s the one who can hurt you big-time.”
Two years ago, Clermont arrived at Saracens’ then home ground in Watford and thrashed their opponents 22-3 in a lopsided European Cup quarter-final.
McCall was also in charge of the side for that match and hasn’t forgotten the experience.
“We would hold our hands up and say that day was a little ‘men against boys’,” he recalled.
French clubs have proved something of a thorn in the side of Saracens, currently nine points clear at the top of the English Premiership.
Last season, they lost 24-12 to eventual European champions Toulon in the semi-finals, with England great Jonny Wilkinson kicking all of the French team’s points.
And this term, they were twice beaten by Toulouse in the pool stages.
However, defiant former Ireland centre McCall said: “The Toulon semi last year, they didn’t score a try that day, and we had an opportunity after halftime.”
Clermont have won an astonishing 76 consecutive home games but have been far more fallible away from their Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin fortress, having lost nine away matches in the French Top 14 alone this season.
Like Saracens, Clermont, who lost by a point to Toulon in last season’s final, have yet to win the European Cup.