• Saffas Abroad: Kolbe stars despite defeat

    SARugbymag.co.za looks back at the South African players who featured for their respective clubs in the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup.

    – Defending champions Saracens suffered heartbreak as Racing 92 scored a late try to kick them out of the competition with a 19-15 victory in Paris. Despite ending up on the losing side, Springbok tighthead prop Vincent Koch put in another impressive shift, playing close to the full 80 minutes for the second match in a row, helping Saracens hold their own at the scrums. Koch’s form in Europe should have him retain his place in the Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship should South Africa take part. Michael Rhodes, who was man of the match in the quarter-finals, also played 77 minutes for Saracens, making five carries and 11 tackles – missing one – in a tightly-fought contest between the two packs. Saracens captain Brad Barritt played 64 minutes and missed none of his eight tackles, but did not get too many opportunities with ball in hand as he did against Leinster. France-capped No 8 Antonie Claassen started for Racing 92, who had Finn Russell and Virimi Vakatawa to thank for a moment of magic which led to the decisive try.

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    – The Exeter Chiefs put in a determined display to stun favourites Toulouse in a 28-18 win and qualify for their very first Champions Cup final. The Chiefs were without South African forward duo Jacques Vermeulen and Jannes Kirsten, who had both starred for the English team in Europe, but still put in a power-packed display to upset the French team.  Cheslin Kolbe retained his place on the wing after a fantastic performance in the quarter-finals and was excellent again despite being on the wrong end of the result. Kolbe made 73 metres from 11 carries and created plenty of opportunities – with three clean breaks – which his side unfortunately could not finish off, partly due to some fantastic cover defending by the Chiefs.

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    Photo: David Rodgers/Getty Images