McCall gets Saracens post as Venter leaves


FORMER ULSTER coach and Irish centre Mark McCall has been named director of rugby at cash rich London club Saracens after Brendan Venter’s surprise announcement yesterday he is returning to South Africa in January.

Venter, however, has been retained on the Saracens payroll in a newly invented technical director position and will make “frequent visits” to the club.

“Brendan, Anneme and their children are returning to South Africa in January for family reasons,” chairman Nigel Wray said. “As a club very much based on family values, we respect their decision and wish them well.

“Mark and Andy (Farrell, who will step into McCall’s current role of head coach) will take over the day-to-day running of the team, but Brendan will remain an integral part of the club.

“We would like to thank Brendan for his outstanding contribution through the past two seasons, establishing a culture of honesty, discipline and work ethic that is now enshrined within the DNA of our club, and we look forward to his continuing involvement in the months and years to come.”

McCall had a respectable stint in charge of the Irish Under 21s – leaving just before the 2004 World Cup when a team containing Jamie Heaslip, Tommy Bowe and Tomás O’Leary eventually lost in the final to New Zealand – to replace Alan Solomons as the head coach of Ulster.

After an ultimately unsuccessful three-year tenure with his native province, McCall became backs coach for French club Castres, working alongside fellow Ulsterman Jeremy Davidson, but this only lasted 12 months.

He was hired by Saracens in July, 2009 to work under Venter. The 43-year-old was capped 13 times by Ireland between 1992 and 1998.

Venter’s time in charge of last season;s English Premiership runners-up has been diluted by controversy. He received a 10 week match-day-ban for gestures and comments made towards Leicester supporters during an English Premiership game at Welford Road, while in October, Venter was fined €25,000 by the ERC when, after defeat to Leinster at Wembley, he predicted the death of rugby if games continued to be refereed in a certain manner.

However, it appears these two incidents have nothing to do with Venter’s mid-season departure home where the former Springbok centre can return to his medical practice.

Either way, it provides McCall with the biggest opportunity of his career.