Saffas Abroad: Kolbe, Rhule shine in Europe looks back at the South African players who featured for their respective clubs in the opening round of the European Champions Cup.

*Note: For the pool stage, the clubs are divided into two pools of 12 – Pool A and Pool B. Clubs from the same league cannot play against one another and clubs will only play against other clubs in the same pool. Each club will play four matches during the pool stage, two at home and two away. The top-four clubs from each pool will qualify for the Champions Cup quarter-finals. The clubs ranked from fifth to eighth in each pool will qualify for the Round of 16 of the European Challenge Cup.


– Bordeaux needed a 73rd-minute try from Argentina wing Santiago Cordero to beat the Northampton Saints 16-12 at Franklin’s Gardens in the opening match on Friday evening. The French side was without hooker Joseph Dweba, but lock Jandre Marais played 46 minutes after replacing Argentina international Guido Petti just before half time. Northampton had lock David Ribbans and No 8 Shaun Adendorff in their starting lineup, while loosehead prop Francois van Wyk was on the bench. Adendorff had an impressive 74 minutes on the park, which included 54 metres from six carries, six tackles and a clean break.

– The Scarlets held on to claim a 23-19 victory over Bath at the Rec. In a dramatic end to the game, Bath scored what they thought was the winning try in the final seconds, but the TMO ruled that scrumhalf Ben Spencer had grounded the ball short of the line. Former Sharks loosehead prop Juan Schoeman played 19 minutes off the bench for Bath.

– Toulon got their Champions Cup campaign off to a perfect start as they cruised to a 26-14 home win over the Sale Sharks. Eben Etzebeth started for Toulon and played 46 minutes, with the Springbok lock making four carries, five tackles and winning a turnover. Robert du Preez started at outside centre for the Sale Sharks, who also had hooker Akker van der Merwe and a loose trio of Cobus WieseJono Ross and No 8 Jean-Luc du Preez in their starting lineup, while Faf de Klerk came off the bench in the 51st minute. Wiese was the pick of Sale’s Saffas as he made seven carries for 37m, eight tackles and two clean breaks.

– Leinster’s quest for a fifth European star got off to a solid start as the PRO14 champions claimed a comfortable 35-14 win over Montpellier. The French side had Paul Willemse at lock, while Nico Janse van Rensburg started at flank and Jacques du Plessis was at No 8. Bismarck du Plessis played most of the second half after being brought off the bench in the 47th minute.

– Wasps scored two late tries to ensure a 24-8 victory over the Dragons in Newport. Former Stormers prop Brok Harris started for the Dragons.

– Raymond Rhule got on the scoresheet as La Rochelle ground out a tough 13-8 victory over Edinburgh at Murrayfield. The Springbok wing made eight carries for 51m, 10 passes, four tackles and a clean break in a tight encounter decided by La Rochelle’s excellent defence. Dillyn Leyds and flank Wiaan Liebenberg also started for La Rochelle , with Liebenberg making nine tackles and 10 carries. Jaco van der Walt returned from Scotland duty to start for Edinburgh, kicking a penalty but missing a conversion. WP Nel and Pierre Schoeman, as well as wing Duhan van der Merwe, all started for Edinburgh, while lock Andries Ferreira and scrumhalf Nic Groom were on the bench.


Cheslin Kolbe was the shining light of the first round of action after the Springbok wing scored a brace of tries to help Toulouse come from behind to beat Ulster 29-22 in Ireland. Ulster were 12-0 ahead thanks to hooker Rob Herring‘s first of two tries and a try from flyhalf Ian Madigan. However, this lead only lasted a few seconds as Kolbe ran from inside his own half, chipped over the defence and gathered his own kick to score his first try.  His second try was equally good, as Kolbe evaded a tackle and got back up before sliding past another Ulster player and scoring what turned out to be the match-winning try. In total, Kolbe made 48m from four carries and had three clean breaks. Also in action for Toulouse was Springbok flank Rynhard Elstadt, who played the full 80 minutes and made 12 tackles, missing two. Marcell Coetzee, meanwhile, had a slightly quiet outing by his standards, playing just 43 minutes and making nine carries and two tackles.

– South African-born Japanese wing Kotaro Matsushima scored a hat-trick to boost Clermont to a thrilling 51-38 away victory over the Bristol Bears. In an outstanding individual performance, Matsushima took just three minutes to score his first try, getting his second in the 26th minute and sealing his hat-trick in the 68th minute. Japan’s 2019 World Cup hero made a total of 13 carries for 90m, getting a try assist and made four clean breaks.

– Lyon sent out a warning to their European rivals by putting a second-string Gloucester side to the sword with an eight-try 55-10 win. Gloucester controversially fielded a side made up mostly of academy graduates, with 15 of the 23 either coming through or graduating from the Gloucester Rugby Academy set-up.

– Reigning European champions the Exeter Chiefs got the defence up and running with a relentless performance against the Glasgow Warriors earning them a 42-0 victory. Exeter scored six tries as they proved far too strong for a Warriors team which welcomed back a number of their Scotland internationals, including loosehead prop Oli Kebble. The Chiefs had Jannes Kirsten at openside flank and the South African completed all 13 of his tackle attempts and made seven carries.

– Racing 92 were pushed all the way by Connacht but managed to fight and hold out to beat the Irish side 26-22 in Paris. France-capped forward Bernard le Roux started at lock for Racing.

– Munster Rugby scored two second-half tries to secure a 21-7 victory in an attritional match over an ill-disciplined Harlequins side this past Sunday. There were four yellow cards handed out in the match, three of them going to Harlequins players. Damian de Allende started for Munster and the Springbok centre showed his quality with five carries from midfield for 17m, while he also made three tackles and won a turnover. Irish internationals Jean Kleyn and CJ Stander both also started for Munster. Meanwhile, Wilco Louw continued his good form for Harlequins despite ending on the losing side. The Bok tighthead played the full 80 minutes and made seven carries and nine tackles.


Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

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Dylan Jack