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Heineken Cup

Saracens v Ulster: 3 key Battles to decide a Heineken Cup 1/4 final

The northern province have important personnel back and are brimming with intent in London today.

Schalk Brits v Rory Best

WITH FIVE SOUTH Africans on show, we’ve honed in on one in particular for Key Battles.

Brits will lead from the front in every respect for Saracens. Abrasive, powerful and with an eye for a gap he has earned his status as a cult figure in the Premiership. The Springbok has even managed to end his long scoring draught of late, crashing over on Sarries’ new artificial surface at Allianz Park.

As pointed out yesterday by the stat-gathering Andy McGeady, Ulster’s line-out must also improve greatly if they are to upset the odds. Brits and Sarries were responsible for the most efficient line-out in the group stages while Ulster’s second set-piece was not only the least successful of the eight qualifiers, but they disrupted less opposition line-out ball than anyone else.

Kelly Brown v Iain Henderson

Brown is just one of an extremely powerful Sarries pack and on the opposite side of the scrum Mark Anscombe has chosen to shelve the in-form Robbie Diack in favour of continuing Henderson’s inexorable rise to the top.

His selection has perhaps been with a view of combating the line-out deficit mentioned above, but in the loose Henderson has also proven a formidable ball carrier.

The 21-year-old lock never looks phased, but he will have to dig deep and use every inch of that impressive frame to counteract the Desperate Dan-esque Scotland skipper.

Alex Goode v Jared Payne

Halfpenny aside, are these two men the continent’s in-form fullbacks? They must be close.

It was no coincidence that Ulster’s run of poor form overlapped with Payne’s absence. After a season side-lined, the Kiwi stepped in seamlessly in September.

Payne does not have the pace of Goode, his skill-set is a little more subtle than the England international, but his presence is always felt. Be it a timely kick for territory or an incisive break and pass; Payne has a knack of picking the right option at the right time.

Goode’s pace, however, means he may only have to pick one incisive line to decide the match.

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