SARugbymag.co.za looks back at the past weekend’s European Champions and Challenge Cup matches involving South African players.
– Leinster gave themselves a great chance of finishing top of Pool 1 by beating Toulouse 29-13 to climb above their opponents. Wing Cheslin Kolbe was the outstanding player in defeat for Toulouse, running a total of 122m, making 11 tackles and four linebreaks, before grabbing a consolation try after the hooter. Rynhardt Elstadt was at flank for Toulouse and heavily involved in defence, making 23 tackles and missing only two.
– Bath needed a late penalty to beat English rivals Wasps 18-16. Jacques van Rooyen started at loosehead prop for Bath, who brought Francois Louw and hooker Michael van Vuuren off the bench in the second half. Wasps, who were without fullback Willie le Roux due to a neck injury, had Juan de Jongh at inside centre and Nizaam Carr as a replacement.
– Johann van Graan’s Munster powered to a 41-15 victory over the Johan Ackermann-coached Gloucester, to take control of Pool 2. Lock Jean Kleyn and No 8 CJ Stander both played their part in the victories, gaining ground with some big carries. Arno Botha came into the Munster loose trio in the second half, making seven tackles in the 20 minutes he was on the field. Gloucester had Gerbrandt Grobler at lock and Franco Mostert at flank, with hooker Franco Marais coming off the bench. Mostert made 14 tackles, while missing three.
– The Exeter Chiefs kept their playoff hopes alive with a 34-12 victory over a 14-man Castres, which allowed the English side to climb into second place in Pool 2. Don Armand took up his regular place at flank for the Chiefs. Castres had outside centre Robert Ebersohn, hooker Jody Jenneker and tighthead prop Daniel Kotze in their starting lineup. Rory Kockott came off the bench for Castres at the start of the second half.
– Saracens were the first team to reach the quarter-finals after beating Lyon 28-10. The Premiership title holders sit in first place in Pool 3, four points clear of second-placed Glasgow Warriors. Tighthead prop Vincent Koch and veteran flank Schalk Burger were both in Saracens’ starting XV. Lyon had a South African second-row pair of Hendrik Roodt and Francois van der Merwe, while Deon Fourie produced a solid showing at No 8. Lock Etienne Oosthuizen and scrumhalf Charl McLeod were both replacements for Lyon.
– The Glasgow Warriors survived a late comeback from the Cardiff Blues to claim an important 33-24 win. Loosehead prop Oli Kebble was among the Warriors’ five try-scorers after powering over in the second half. Flyhalf Brandon Thomson converted four of the Warriors tries, while South African born Canadian wing DTH van der Merwe had a quiet outing out wide for the Scottish side. Cardiff had George Earle at lock.
– Ulster produced one of the results of the weekend with a stunning 26-22 win against Pool 4 leaders Racing 92. The result carried the Pro14 side to within three points of their opponents, setting up an interesting final weekend in the pool. Louis Ludik was at fullback for Ulster, while No 8 Marcell Coetzee enjoyed a fine outing, making 13 carries and 22 tackles and winning three turnovers. Racing had South African-born French pair Bernard le Roux and Antonie Claassen in their pack. Hooker Rob Herring was on the bench for Ulster.
– The Scarlets claimed their first Champions Cup win of the season by beating the Leicester Tigers 33-10. David Bulbring was at lock for the Scarlets and made 11 carries and 14 tackles.
– A South African-laden Montpellier side thrashed the Newcastle Falcons 45-8 to stay in contention for a wildcard playoff place. Wing Henry Immelman scored twice, while lock Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg and new French call-up Paul Willemse added tries. Ruan Pienaar kicked four conversions, with Johan Goosen adding a fifth. Jan Serfontein was an early second-half replacement and set up one of Immelman’s tries, while tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis got 44 minutes of game time before being replaced. Fullback Frans Steyn was also heavily involved, making a total of 111m from 13 carries and making two clean breaks. Newcastle had hooker Kyle Cooper in their starting XV.
– Edinburgh flyhalf Jaco van der Walt was in fine form with the boot to help the Scottish side claim a 28-17 win over Toulon in France. Van der Walt kicked two conversions and three penalties for a personal haul of 13 points. Edinburgh also had Duhan van der Merwe on the wing and props Pierre Schoeman and WP Nel in their front row. Wing JP Pietersen, lock Juandre Kruger and tighthead prop Marcel van der Merwe were all in action for Toulon.
– The Dragons put on an entertaining show of attacking rugby as they thrashed Timisoara Saracens 59-3. Centre Jarryd Sage, brother of Bulls’ backline player Dylan, came off the bench for the Dragons as an injury replacement in the first half and ran a total of 46m, making one clean break and one offload.
– Clermont guaranteed themselves a top-of-the-table finish thanks to a 48-40 victory in a thriller against the Northampton Saints. Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach continued his good form for the Saints by scoring a try off the bench for the Premiership side. Saints flank Heinrich Brüssouw put his injury concerns behind him with a fantastic performance at openside, making two linebreaks, one offload and 10 tackles in his 54 minutes on the field. Francois van Wyk was at loosehead prop for Northampton, while Clermont brought lock Flip van der Merwe off the bench.
– Morné Steyn made a good impact off the bench to help Heyneke Meyer‘s Stade Français win 35-14 against Top 14 rivals Pau. Steyn came on twice as a replacement for Jules Plisson, kicking two conversions and rounding off the scoring with a try in the 79th minute. Bulls loanee André Warner also came on as a substitute to resume his halfback partnership with Steyn. Veteran flank Willem Alberts started for the Parisians, who are third in Pool 2.
– The Worcester Warriors ended a 10-year wait to qualify from the pool stage with a dramatic 20-18 win against the Ospreys, courtesy of a last-minute drop goal. Warriors wing Dean Hammond scored one of their three tries, dotting down in the corner. Scott van Breda started at fullback for the Warriors and kicked one of his conversions.
– Connacht withstood a comeback from the Sale Sharks, with a late penalty helping them to a nailbiting 20-18 win. Faf de Klerk was again at the heart of matters for the Sharks, scoring a try and kicking a conversion and two penalties to give his side a brief 18-17 lead in the match. South African-born Irish international Quinn Roux was a replacement for Connacht. Captain Jono Ross and No 8 Josh Strauss both started for Sale, who lead Pool 3 only by points difference.
– Bordeaux-Begles claimed a 34-27 away victory over winless Perpignan. Gert Muller was at tighthead prop for Perpignan, who sit bottom of Pool 3 with just three points.
– Nick Fenton-Wells scored a hat-trick of tries as the Bristol Bears eased to a 65-9 victory against Russian side Enisei-STM. Bears hooker Fenton-Wells, who played for the Stormers, put in a fine individual effort to score once in the first half before claiming two tries in the second. The win kept Bristol in second place in Pool 4.
– La Rochelle all but assured themselves of quarter-final qualification by beating Zebre 32-12. Wiaan Liebenberg started at flank for La Rochelle and made one linebreak and 13 tackles. Zebre had Luhandre Luus at hooker and flank Johan Meyer on the bench.
– Benetton-Treviso carried their good domestic form into Europe as they breezed past Agen with a 38-24 win. Treviso, who are now just one point behind pool leaders Harlequins, had Irné Herbst in their second row. Johann Sadie was at outside centre for Agen, who are tied at the bottom of the pool with Grenoble.
– Harlequins stayed top of Pool 5 thanks to a hard-earned 38-20 victory over Grenoble. South African-born Namibian international Renaldo Bothma got a rare start for the Premiership side, making nine tackles and one clean break.
Compiled by Dylan Jack
Photo: Peter Fitzpatrick/Action Plus via Getty Images