With strong links to South Africa, Saracens have been keen to take a game to the country for the past two seasons. Last year, French side Biarritz agreed to play their Heineken Cup match there, but the plan fell through when the fixture was caught up in a wrangle between the venue owners and the local rugby union.
When the draw for this season's competition took place in July, officials of the Hertfordshire club contacted their boardroom counterparts in Edinburgh with a proposal to revive the idea for the meeting of the sides on the weekend of 18/19/20 January next year, the final round of pool games. Herald Sport understands that Edinburgh were offered a package providing return flights to Cape Town and one week's accommodation in the city.
Edinburgh's refusal to take part in the game was described as "a missed opportunity" by Edward Griffiths, the Saracens chief executive, who is widely recognised as one of the sport's most visionary administrators.
In 1995, Griffiths was head of the South Africa Rugby Union and was responsible for devising the 'One team, One Country' campaign that united the previously divided nation behind the Springboks' World Cup success that year. Griffiths said: "They've passed over the chance to stage a game that I think would have had a crowd of 50,000 in Cape Town. It would have been a one-off. It would have made rugby history and I think it would have been a huge event for the players, the supporters, everybody.
"From what I understand, there was no enthusiasm at Edinburgh for going at all. Which is sad, because last year Biarritz immediately saw the opportunity and were very enthusiastic. That fell through because of various problems out there, but those have all been solved.
"It would have created a fantastic occasion for rugby. Rugby as a sport is a game that needs to take a step out occasionally. It cannot just do the same things over and over again. We're in a very competitive market and we really need to be bold and innovative."
Historically, Saracens were often billed as the sleeping giants of English rugby. However, the club was quick to adapt to the ending of the amateur era, signing a number of the world top players – Michael Lynagh and Francois Pienaar were early recruits – and employing professional marketing techniques.
The arrival of Griffiths in 2009, coupled with an investment package put together among a number of South African business figures, brought new energy to the club. In March, Saracens drew 83,761 spectators, a world record crowd for a club match, to their game with Harlequins at Wembley. They have also arranged to play their second pool game in this year's Heineken Cup, against Racing Metro on October 20, in Brussels.
Racing Metro's willingness to play in Belgium only deepened Griffiths' frustration with Edinbugh's refusal to go to Cape Town.
"What's going to happen now is that we will play Edinburgh on January 19 at Vicarage Road," he said. "There will be a crowd similar to the crowd at Murrayfield. The game will be played, will not cause any great waves, and will quickly be forgotten.
"It's probably going to be very cold and miserable in Europe then. But people could have turned on to see this game played in the evening sunlight and balmy temperatures, and probably a great game of rugby. It would have been fantastic for Saracens and for Edinburgh and for European rugby, so it's disappointing it can't take place."
Confirming that the offer to play in South Africa had been made, and rejected, Edinburgh chief executive Craig Docherty said that a number of factors had influenced the club's decision to turn the invitation down.
He said: As a club, our commitment is to our fans and other key stakeholders, such as sponsors, and fundamentally our goal is to qualify from what is a very challenging Heineken Cup pool.
"Following Edinburgh Rugby to South Africa is simply not an option for the vast majority whose support was so crucial to our journey to last season's semi-final. I'm sure they will be desperate to support us in what could be a critical pool game.
"The case made by Saracens was not commercially compelling and, from a performance perspective, would have had a detrimental effect on our prepa-ration for and recovery from this match.
"Edinburgh Rugby are open to new and innovative ideas but the prospect of playing our final pool game in the southern hemisphere was simply not an option that we could seriously consider from a number of different perspectives."