Saracens spreading the gospel of rugby Hargreaves
Saracens lock Alistair Hargreaves believes the Aviva Premiership powerhouse have helped spread the “gospel of rugby” in Bermuda.
The Sarries, who face a Bermuda International Select XV tonight at the National Sports Centre, have spent this week visiting schools, running coaching workshops and helping raise the game’s profile on the Island.
And Hargreaves, a South African international, reckons rugby can have “huge social benefits” in Bermuda where the sport’s popularity has steadily grown in recent years.
“We’ve been trying to get out there and meet plenty of people to tell them what Saracens are all about,” said Hargreaves, who took part in a corporate touch rugby tournament at Elbow Beach this week.
“Hopefully we can do a bit of good and spread the gospel of rugby. We’ve done a bit of a coaching at some of the local schools and had a lot of fun getting the kids excited about playing the sport.
“We’re hoping to grow rugby (in Bermuda) and if Saracens can be part of that then great because we love the game and believe it has huge social benefits.”
The Durban-born 27-year-old has been overwhelmed by Bermuda’s beauty and the friendliness of its residents.
“It’s been awesome; it’s a beautiful place and for most of us it’s our first time here,” said Hargreaves, who was part of Saracens’ 35-strong playing party that arrived in Bermuda on Monday night.
“I’ve been so impressed with the people of the Island — it’s been stunning.
“It’s fantastic for us to travel here and there was no chance of the players turning down this trip — we haven’t seen the sun for 12 months. I can see quite a few red faces knocking around because the boys have been soaking it all in.”
Saracens’ star-studded line-up, including Mouritz Botha, Charlie Hodgson and Andrew Saull, take on the Select XV at 6.30pm tonight, and Hargreaves hopes both sets of players can put on a show for the crowd.
“We are all competitive by nature and so the game will certainly be competitive and hopefully played in the right spirit,” he said. “We’re all here to enjoy it and there are some really good players on both sides. I’m sure there will be some aggressive rugby on show.
“We’ve brought a very strong side and there are some quality players on the opposition as well.”
Hargreaves has enjoyed his first season at Saracens despite the bitterly-disappointing end to their season, which saw them lose in the semi-finals stage of the Heineken Cup and the Premiership play-offs.
And he believes the London-based outfit can use that double blow to inspire them to glory next season.
“I’ve loved my first season in the UK. It’s been a big change for me, particularly off the pitch, getting used to a new environment and lifestyle,” he said.
“I’ve been blown away by how good the club have been to me and I’ve really loved my rugby (at Saracens) — I thought we played some really good stuff.
“I’ve had some really good coaching and I’ve built myself a nice platform to build on for next season. Hopefully we can lift the (Aviva Premiership) trophy next year.”
The Saracens trip is expected to raise in excess of $50,000 for the Beyond Rugby charity and the youth section of Bermuda Rugby Football Union.