SARugbymag.co.za looks at which South Africans you should keep an eye on in the opening weekend of the European Champions Cup.
GLOUCESTER vs TOULOUSE (Friday, 9:40pm)
Gloucester have named three South Africans – hooker Franco Marais, lock Gerbrandt Grobler and loose-forward Ruan Ackermann – in their starting lineup, with Corne Fourie providing backup on the bench. Toulouse, meanwhile, will only have flank Rynhard Elstadt in their team. The French team is still without Cheslin Kolbe, who is recovering from his involvement in the World Cup.
The in-form Ackermann should have a firey battle with Elstadt, who was involved in the Springbok warm-up games for the World Cup. With the Boks looking for someone to fill the gap left by Francois Louw and for a long-term successor to Duane Vermeulen, these are two players in particular to watch.
BATH vs ULSTER (Saturday, 3pm)
Speaking of loose-forwards, Marcell Coetzee will be starting at No 8 for Ulster against Bath. Coetzee was unfortunate to miss the World Cup due to injury but has since recovered and returned to the form that earned him a Springbok recall. He will be in the thick of things as Ulster look to continue their good form in Europe.
GLASGOW WARRIORS vs SALE SHARKS (Saturday, 3pm)
Continuing the trend of in-form flanks, the Du Preez twins will be starting for the Sale Sharks against the Glasgow Warriors. Dan du Preez is coming off an excellent outing in the Premiership against Wasps and is another who could provide an answer for the Springboks at No 8.
Embrose Papier will be looking to make the most of a starting opportunity after making a good impact off the bench for the Sharks.
RACING 92 vs SARACENS (Sunday, 6:15pm)
While the final fixture of the weekend won’t feature too many South Africans, it is worth noting that Damian Willemse has returned to continue his loan spell at Saracens. The 21-year-old will be playing from the bench as the English club will look to make a good start in defence of their European title.