SARugbymag.co.za looks back at the past weekend’s European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup matches involving South African players.
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS CUP
– Last season’s finalists Leinster became the first team to qualify for the playoffs by handing the Northampton Saints a 50-21 thrashing. Loosehead prop Frans van Wyk and hooker Michael van Vuuren both started for the Saints, who had two players yellow carded in the first half.
– A try in the final 10 minutes gave Benetton Treviso a dramatic 25-22 win over French Top 14 side Lyon. Dewaldt Duvenage was at scrumhalf for Benetton and made 50 passes and nine tackles. The Italian side also had Braam Steyn at No 8, who made a massive 72m from 18 carries with two clean breaks. Irne Herbst formed the second-row combination with former Bulls lock Eli Snyman. Lyon had Etienne Oosthuizen in their second row.
– The Exeter Chiefs moved 10 points clear of the Sale Sharks with a five-star performance giving them a 35-10 win over their nearest rivals in the pool. Jacques Vermeulen started at flank for the Chiefs and made eight tackles and five carries in a relatively quiet outing before being replaced by Don Armand. Jono Ross captained the Sale Sharks and made 23 tackles in a solid solo performance but could not inspire his team to a win. Akker van der Merwe was on the bench for the Sharks.
– La Rochelle claimed their first win of the tournament by beating the Glasgow Warriors 12-7 to leave the Scottish looking at an early exit from the competition. Kyle Steyn started on the left wing for the Warriors and made one clean break for 40m from nine carries.
– A fantastic 19-point performance from Irish scrumhalf John Cooney helped Ulster claim a crucial 34-10 away win against Harlequins. Marcell Coetzee was at No 8 for Ulster and made 40m from 19 carries along with 10 tackles, a turnover and a clean break. Louis Ludik had a far more quiet outing on the left wing, making four carries for 13m and five tackles. Harlequins had Stephan Lewies at lock and the former Sharks player scored his team’s only try of the match, while also making 41m from six carries with two clean breaks and 11 tackles, missing one. Travis Ismaiel was a substitute for Harlequins.
– Clermont scored eight tries to hammer Bath 52-26 and close the gap between themselves and Ulster. The French side had already sealed a four-try bonus-point after the first 20 minutes but ran in a further four scores in a ruthless display of attacking rugby.
– Racing 92 continued to set the pace at the top of the pool as they claimed a bonus-point 40-27 victory over the Ospreys. Shaun Venter was at scrumhalf for the Ospreys and scored one of their five tries as the visitors put in a late rally to add some respectability to the scoreline. The former Cheetahs player also made 60m from seven carries, 75 passes and one clean break. The Ospreys were without lock Marvin Orie, who has returned to South Africa following his loan spell with the club. A special mention also needs to be made of Namibian wing Lesley Klim, who scored a brace of tries for the Welsh club and ran 102m and made four clean breaks.
– Defending champions Saracens kept their Champions Cup hopes alive with a 15-6 win over Munster in a feisty match which threatened to boil over at times. Saracens had Vincent Koch as their starting tighthead prop and the Springbok made 17 tackles and one clean break. Munster No 8 CJ Stander made 30m from 16 carries and a huge 24 tackles, missing just two. Jean Kleyn and flank Chris Cloete were also in action for the Pro14 side.
– An 80th-minute try saw Connacht snatch a thrilling 27-24 victory against Johan Ackermann’s Gloucester. Lock Gerbrandt Grobler scored a first-half for the English side, who were 24-13 ahead in the second half before Connacht made a dramatic comeback. Ruan Ackermann was at No 8 for Gloucester and picked up a try assist to go with his 18 tackles and 12 carries. The result leaves Gloucester just one point ahead of their opponents, trailing Toulouse by nine points.
– Toulouse made it four wins from four by beating fellow French side Montpellier 26-18 in a tense encounter. Cheslin Kolbe started on the right wing for Toulouse, but was substituted with a rib injury in the 60th minute after a big tackle on Nemani Nadolo. Rynhard Elstadt and prop Maks van Dyk were both on Toulouse’s bench. Johan Goosen put in a standout performance for Montpellier, kicking two penalties and a conversion to keep his side in the game, while also making 53m from 14 carries, 33 passes and two offloads. Centre Frans Steyn, hooker Bismarck du Plessis and lock Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg all started for Montpellier, while Jan Serfontein played 20 minutes off the bench.
EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP
– The Worcester Warriors, featuring Francois Hougaard, Cornell du Preez, GJ van Velze, Anton Bresler and Nic Schonert, slumped to an agonising 25-16 defeat against top-toppers the Dragons. Loosehead prop Brok Harris started for the Dragons.
– Castres beat Enisei-STM 22-10 to move up to second in the pool standings. Robert Ebersohn, Rory Kockott and Jody Jenneker played for the winners. Fullback Dean Gordon, wings Earll Douwrie and Bjorn Basson, No 8 Jeremy Jordaan and prop Ewald van der Westhuizen turned out for Enisei. Douwrie scored all of his team’s points via a self-converted try and a penalty.
– Toulon pipped London Irish 26-20 to book their place in the quarter-finals. Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth starred for Toulon with 13 tackles and three turnovers. Prop Allan Dell and lock Ruan Botha represented London Irish.
– Scarlets hammered Bayonne 46-5 to keep alive their hopes of reaching the last eight. Werner Kruger was on Scarlets’ bench, but it was Uzair Cassiem who against stole the spotlight with a superb performance. The No 8 made 13 carries, 49 running meters, seven passes and 12 tackles (without missing a single hit), one offload and one clean break. Bayonne had wing Sean Robinson in their ranks.
– Lock Jandre Marais and his Bordeaux teammates came out 33-6 victors in their French derby against Agen. The result secured safe passage through to the quarter-finals for Bordeaux. Agen can still mathematically qualify for the knockouts, but they need other results to go their way if that is to happen.
– Wasps’ inexplicably wretched form continued when they suffered a 9-7 defeat at the hands of Edinburgh. Ashley Johnson and Nizaam Carr started in Wasps’ back row, with the latter scoring their only try of the game. Juan de Jongh was an unused sub on Wasps’ bench. Scrumhalf Nic Groom, hooker Michael Willemse and prop WP Nel were in Edinburgh’s run-on XV, but it was replacement flyhalf who came on and kicked two crucial penalties to seal an impressive win.
– The Bristol Bears scored a late try to clinch an epic 18-16 victory over Stade Français. James Hall started at scrumhalf for Stade, but was subbed off early in the second half. Bristol are sitting pretty at the top of the log.
– Centre Nico Lee and lock Peet Marais featured in the Brive side that inflicted a 24-10 defeat on Zebre, who played with Johan Meyer at the back of the scrum. The result sees Brive overtake Zebre in second position.
– The Leicester Tigers had to fight hard for their 20-13 win over a gutsy Calvisano side. Fullback Kayle van Zyl was in the starting lineup for Calvisano, who have been eliminated from the tournament with two rounds remaining.
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