SARACENS will say farewell to two of their most decorated players on Saturday as Kelly Brown and Neil de Kock both play the final games of their illustrious careers.
Scottish international back-row forward Brown, 34, confirmed earlier this month that he would retire at the end of the season to become an academy coach at the club, while scrum-half de Kock, 38, is also calling time on his career.
The duo have both helped Sarries to win three Aviva Premiership titles and be crowned European champions for the first time in their history, with Brown having been at the club for seven years and former club captain de Kock – who is moving back to his native South Africa – for 11.
And Brown and de Kock will pull on the black jersey for one last time on Saturday when Sarries play host to already relegated Bristol in the Aviva Premiership (3pm).
“Both Kelly and Neil will go down as legends of this club,” said director of rugby Mark McCall. “Kelly has been an amazing player and person for Saracens.
“On the field, he has been unbelievably consistent, setting a superb example to our younger players and constantly giving everything he had. Off the field, he is one of the most selfless people you’ll ever meet, always putting the team first – his decency and humility have always shone through in his time here.
“Neil will always be remembered as one of the true greats of Saracens. His contribution to this club over 11 years really is hard to put into words and hopefully on Saturday afternoon we can give him and Kelly the send-off they so richly deserve.”
With Sarries not having another home match scheduled for this season and with the side currently on track for an away tie in the Premiership play-off semi-finals, Saturday’s clash could also see prop Petrus du Plessis, lock Jim Hamilton and wing Chris Ashton – who are all leaving the club at the end of the season – make their final appearances at Allianz Park.
McCall added: “Petrus has been a rock for this club ever since he arrived in 2010 and his efforts on and off the pitch have played an important role in helping the club get to where we are now – consistently competing for the highest honours in the game.
“Jim’s contribution to the group has been extremely important – time and again he has really stood up for us and has been selfless in his work and approach around the club. He’s enjoyed a fine career at the very top of his profession.
“We understand Chris’ motivations to head off to France, and since the announcement earlier this season, his attitude and performances have been first class. He, like a few other players heading elsewhere at the end of the season, will still have a key role to play over the next few weeks.”