SARACENS' owner Nigel Wray has resisted the temptation to make drastic changes after watching Saracens' season collapse following defeat at home to Pontypridd in the Parker Pen Shield on Sunday their second quarter-final defeat in successive weeks.

With speculation surrounding the future of Francois Pienaar, the club's chief executive-cum-coach, mounting, Wray moved swiftly to dismiss this by refusing to the lay the blame for Sarries' inadequacies at the feet of individuals, but hinted at a restructuring of the coaching set-up.

"The blames lies in the hands of everyone, including me," revealed Wray. "The players need to look at themselves, and the management is not doing it's job either.

"We have to look at the team and the running of the team. Collectively, we have to make changes because we have been under performing for too long. We need to do whatever it takes to play to our potential."

Such a resolution, according to Wray, could involve bringing in someone to supplement the existing coaching staff rather than replacing it, in much the same way Northampton Saints, with Wayne Smith, and London Wasps, with Warren Gatland, have successfully deployed in recent months.

Since his much-heralded arrival as a player midway through the 1997/8 season, Pienaar has been at the epi-centre of Saracens' revolution under Wray, that has transformed them into one of the leading clubs in the professional era.

With the Tetley's Bitter Cup in 1998 the sole reward for Wray's considerable investment, the business tycoon has made no secret of his growing frustration at the level of performances, repeatedly emphasising the fact that 'you can't finance failure'.

The Pontypridd defeat only served to intensify Wray's concerns and he sought a meeting with Pienaar in the aftermath of Sunday's reverse to seek an answer as to "why we are under-achieving."

"Francois was absolutely gutted after the defeat," explained Wray. "He has taken a few days off and I've asked him to suggest a solution as to why we are under-achieving.

"We don't need to make revolutionary changes, we just need to find what ingredient it is we need to tweak. He is an outstanding coach, we just need to find out why it is not working, and rapidly."

Wray, whose millions have been responsible for the array of talent in Sarries ranks, launched a thinly-veiled attack on the players in the wake of their exit from the European Shield.

"You have to win games, particularly at home. The last two results have been particularly disappointing, especially on Sunday as it appeared Ponty had more guts and desire than we had, and that disappoints me.

"The players must take some blame, and, to be honest, some of the time they have been pretty ineffective looking, and not looking like they are busting a gut."

The reality of the Pontypridd defeat was etched all over the face of a dejected Pienaar in the post-match press conference.

"This is a dreadful defeat for us," he admitted. "We deserved to lose. Ponty were far more aggressive in defence, and tactically they played the game better than us.

"Nobody goes out on the field to lose a game, but in the last two weeks we have let ourselves down. We played like individuals in the back and not as a team.

"We need to re-group because we play Leicester next. It's now back to the bread and butter of the Premiership, and there are a lot of good teams behind us, and there are a lot of catching up to do with the teams in front of us.

"Our calendar is clear now so we can just concentrate on the league and the play-offs at the end of the season. We still want to be in the top four, but we need learn to win games like this when it comes to the crunch otherwise it's going to be difficult."

Pienaar, 35, is also increasingly being linked with a move back to his native South Africa to fill the vacant Springbok coaching role left after the resignation of Harry Viljoen.

Pienaar, born in Vereeniging, captained South Africa to their finest sporting hour when they lifted the Rugby World Cup in 1995, an achievement that elevated him to national hero status.

"I don't really want to comment on a situation that is purely hypothetical," commented Pienaar, who won 29 caps, all as a captain for the Springboks. "When you do that you open yourself up to so many criticisms and you also disappoint a lot of other people. As far as I am concerned there is a job but nobody has spoken to me."

He added: "I've always maintained that it is a very simple question: Do you want to coach your national side?. Everybody would say yes and I wouldn't be any different. But there a lot of other issues that need to be resolved before that happens."

Said Wray: "Francois will always be linked with the job after the success he had with the country and the high esteem in which he is held."