In an exclusive interview with Julia Harris of Planet Rugby the ex-Sharks and now Saracens centre sat down to discuss his future playing prospects.
The story is not one that rugby fans will be unfamiliar with; a young South African heads to England to further his career, a British passport in his back pocket and dreams of playing top level rugby.
Three years ago the likeable Barritt decided to leave his native Durban and head to Saracens to try his hand in the Premiership. With 67 Saracens caps and six appearances for the England Saxons under his belt, reflecting on his decision Barritt is confident he’s in the right place.
“I’m very happy with my choice, I’m really enjoying my time here at Sarries it’s a great environment in which to learn and prosper as a player,” he told Planet Rugby in an exclusive interview.
“I still keep in touch with a few friends back at the Sharks and obviously there are times when you miss friends and family but on the whole it’s been a great experience living and playing in England.”
Even in London there are some home comforts for Barritt, especially with the arrival of Matt Stevens, who attended the same school as Barritt and has returned to action having served a drugs-related ban.
“It’s definitely great to have him. Matt is a world class both loosehead and tighthead and he’s been a great addition to the squad,” he said.
“I obviously grew up watching Matt at Kearsney College, I was in [grade eight] when he was in [grade twelve] and he’s always a figure that I’ve looked up to and he’s great to have both on and off the field.”
Having plied is trade in South Africa and England, Barritt seems the perfect player to end the age old debate: which is better, northern or southern hemisphere rugby?
“I get asked the question a lot but it’s a very difficult one to answer!” he quipped.
“In terms of the northern hemisphere I think there is a lot more demand on players to adapt conditions in terms of a players ability to adapt to wet weather football or dry weather games.
“Obviously the Super 15 is played at a much higher tempo because it’s predominantly played in summer.
“But in terms of quality I would say they are on par; playing here you need different skills to adapt and likewise in the Super 15 so it’s kind of like comparing apples with oranges I think.”
Barritt could potentially be returning to the south if he’s included in Martin Johnson’s squad for the World Cup. While the Sarries centre didn’t represent England in the Six Nations he did turn out for the England Saxons, meaning he’s still in the selectors’ mind.
With so much talk of World Cup places at such a crucial time in the domestic season, it would be easy to become distracted, but the 24-year-old explains it’s a subject that has been discussed at length at Saracens.
“We’ve spoken about it at Sarries and we feel that ultimately by Saracens being successful individuals will prosper,” he explained.
“So at this stage I think all you can do is keep doing what you’ve been doing for your club, obviously playing your best and if Sarries are doing well it will bode well for the individual.
“That’s the feeling we have here and ultimately we would like everyone to get a shot and hopefully we can be in the selectors mind come selection.”
Listening to Barritt one can’t help but feel there is a great sense of togetherness at the club, and Barritt credits this as one of the reasons why Sarries haven’t been beaten in the league since early January.
“I think we have a very settled team and squad, everyone is pulling their weight and we have a very clear understanding of what we want to do and our coaching staff have been brilliant in assessing how we’ve been playing in terms of what each player is required to do in order for the team to be successful,” he said.
“At this stage it’s just a great understanding amongst the team and a very good camaraderie amongst the squad especially after a great trip to Miami last week!”
Saracens face Gloucester on Sunday, knowing that a win will see them secure a home semi-final, and while Saracens have been enjoying some team-building on foreign shores, the Cherry and Whites will be playing their third game in eight days.
“It’s going to be a huge game, obviously Gloucester are in good form too so it’s pretty much two teams who have won their last seven or eight games in the Premiership.”
“So it’s one that we’re definitely up for and we certainly won’t be underestimating them, they’re a very classy team and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”Tweet