Gio stands tall in losing battle looks back at the past weekend’s French Top 14 and English Premiership pre-season matches, involving South African players.


– Lock Juandré Kruger and Juan Smith turned out for Toulon, who secured their first win of the new season with a 22-18 result over Pau. 

– Willie du Plessis's impressive form with the boot continued as he knocked over four penalty goals to help Bayonne snatch a 12-12 draw with Castres. Inside centre Robert Ebersohn played for Castres from start to finish.

– La Rochelle withstood a late onslaught to edge Grenoble 22-19. Scrumhalf Ricky Januarie started for the winners and was taken off on the hour. Former Bok fullback Gio Aplon was again Grenoble's main attacking weapon and scored a try in the 32nd minute, but his effort was in vain. Former Sharks scrumhalf Charl McLeod came on as a replacement for Grenoble in the second half.

– In an ill-disciplined contest that produced five yellow cards, Brive caused the upset of the round with a 28-20 defeat of Stade Français. Locks Peet Marais and Wilhelm Steenkamp, prop Kevin Buys and blindside flank Paul Hauman all featured for Brive, while Willem Alberts and Meyer Bosman played for Stade.

– Defending champions Racing came good in the second round with a 29-16 bonus-point win against newcomers Lyon. No 8 Antonie Claassen and lock Francois van der Merwe starred for the winners. Albertus Buckle was used a replacement loosehead in the second half and ex-Stormers stalwart Deon Fourie enjoyed a 10-minute cameo at No 8 for Lyon.

– Toulouse pipped Bordeaux 22-17 at Stade Ernest-Wallon. Props Maks van Dyk and Gurthrö Steenkamp started in tandem for Toulouse, who are the only undefeated side after two rounds.

– Tries by lock Paul Willemse, No 8 Pierre Spies and hooker Bismarck du Plessis were not enough for Montpellier, who were beaten 26-22 by Clermont. The trio featured alongside centre Frans Steyn, flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis and prop Jannie du Plessis for the Challenge Cup champions. Catrakilis had an off day with the boot, slotting only one conversion. Fullback Scott Spedding represented Clermont, but it was his missed tackle that led to Spies's try.


– Wasps ground out a 19-9 victory over Bristol in their final pre-season friendly. The newly promoted Bristol led 9-0 at the break, but three unanswered tries – including one from hooker Ashley Johnson – saw Wasps overturn the deficit to secure the win.

– Saracens handed Schalk Burger his club debut in their 73-7 thumping of London Scottish. Burger started alongside tighthead prop Petrus du Plessis and the pair was later joined by replacements Schalk Brits and Neil de Kock.

Photo: Paul Thomas/Getty Images

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