Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque are in danger of becoming the “nearly men” of the Heineken Cup…

…and they hope to make it third time lucky on Saturday when they clash with 1998 Heineken Cup champions Bath Rugby at Estadio Anoeta in San Sebastian.

Biarritz will be appearing in the semi-finals for the third straight season but have so far failed to qualify for any of the showpiece finals, going down to Toulouse in 2004 and Stade Francais Paris a year ago.

“This tournament is massively important to us,” said French star scrum half Dimitri Yachvili.

“We have always put everything into this competition but getting to the semi-finals two years in a row and then missing out has been really painful for us. We know how important the tournament is to our supporters – as well as the players – and we couldn’t be more motivated and we are looking to bring the trophy home with us this year.”

Thomas Lievremont and his team have played two previous matches at Esatadio Anoeta and won both quarter-finals, beating Munster 19-10 last season and Sale Sharks 11-6 earlier this month.

“Being able to play the semi-final at Anoeta is great,” said Yachvili. “We know the ground and the city and being able to play in front of the Basque people is fantastic.

“The fact that Bath aren’t bringing a massive number of people is great for us as it means that even more of our supporters are able to come.
“The support we got from the crowd against Sale was like having a 16th player on the pitch and gave us the extra determination we needed to win and having that again at the semi-final could make all the difference.

“Our semi-final against Paris last year was tough and playing so far from home made it even more difficult.”

Biarritz, despite a 36-22 defeat at Bourgoin over the weekend, are riding high in second place in the Top 14 and Bath – who beat Bristol Rugby 31-16 – are in 7th place in the Premiership but Yachvili is not reading anything into their contrasting domestic fortunes.

“I know that Leicester Tigers were the favourites for the quarter-final against Bath, who are also struggling in their domestic competition, but they are just as fierce adversaries as any other team,” said Yachvili.

“The English teams all like a very physical game and we can only look at their form in the tournament we are playing them in. They have beaten Leinster and Leicester and have certainly earned their place in the semi-final. Playing Heineken Cup rugby can often be very different to playing league rugby.

“Although we have never beaten Bath in European rugby, it’s not something we are worried about. We are a very different team from that season and I imagine they are as well. We are doing video analysis to look at their current strengths and weaknesses but the past results are old news and it certainly won’t worry us.

“If we lose Lievremont for this game it will be a big blow for us. Having said that, we have a very strong back row and Imanol [Harinordiquy] is a very effective No 8. Our back row players are all ready to step up to the plate if the club needs them.

“Thomas does have a massive influence as our leader on the pitch. He’s a very valuable captain but he will be there for the team talk before the game and will no doubt be on the touchline – and he is the sport of guy who can have just as much influence from there as on the pitch.”