Bakkies out to create history

Bakkies Botha can become the first player to win three major titles in both hemispheres when Toulon meet Clermont in the European Champions Cup final, writes BRENTON CHELIN.

Botha, who joined Toulon in 2011 and will retire from playing at the end of the season, will be looking to bow out in style as Toulon go in search of the double in the coming weeks.

First on the agenda is Saturday's European final at Twickenham, the venue where Botha made the last of his 85 appearances for the Springboks last November.

Botha's performance in a winning cause that afternoon showed he has lost none of his ability to dominate the collisions and impose himself against the finest of opposition.

The match between the two French clubs is a repeat of the 2013 final, which Toulon won by a point. They followed that up with a 23-6 win over Saracens last season, and will be in search of a historic third consecutive title this weekend.

Toulon's South African contingent will be key to that quest. It was Juan Smith's try that effectively sealed that victory at the Millennium Stadium, while Bryan Habana's intercept try in this year's semi-final against Leinster swung the match in the French club's favour. Both will start in a side stocked with international stars.

The opposition, however, are not without game-breakers of their own. On the wing Napolioni Nalaga will be looking to extend his European try-scoring record, while at fullback Nick Adendanon is one of the form players in Europe.

The flyhalf battle between the two Australians, Brock James and Matt Giteau, is one of the many personal duels worth keeping an eye on. Giteau will be looking to make a statement to the Wallabies selectors and James to put previous final disappointments behind him.

It is likely to be a clash of styles, with Toulon aiming to utilise their massive pack to grind out the victory, while Clermont will look to their backline to provide the inspiration.

Clermont showed earlier this season against Saracens what a dangerous side they are, but in a match of this magnitude, Toulon's pragmatic approach has proven decisive in the past.

Clermont – 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Noa Nakaitaci, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Brock James, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Damien Chouly (c), 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Vincent Debaty.
Subs: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Thomas Domingo, 18 Clément Ric, 19 Julien Pierre, 20 Julien Bardy, 21 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 22 Camille Lopez, 23 Aurélien Rougerie.

Toulon – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Drew Mitchell, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Juan Martin Hernandez, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Carl Hayman (c), 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Xavier Chiocci.
Subs: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Alexandre Menini, 18 Levan Chilachava, 19 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 20 Virgile Bruni, 21 Rudi Wulf, 22 Frédéric Michalak, 23 Romain Taofifenua.

Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images