SARugbymag.co.za looks back at the past weekend’s first round of European Champions and Challenge Cup matches involving South African players.
– Last season’s finalists Leinster powered to a 33-19 home win over Benetton Treviso. The Italian side had lock Irne Herbst, flank Braam Steyn and scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage in their starting lineup. Steyn made 16 carries, the most of any player in the match, and 10 tackles, winning a turnover.
– The Northampton Saints put in a fine first-half display to beat Lyon 25-14. Springbok scrumhalf Cobus Reinach made a welcome return to Northampton’s starting lineup and put in a typically effective showing, especially with ball in hand. Reinach made 116 metres from eight carries, including two clean breaks and kicked effectively from the base of the ruck. Loosehead prop Frans van Wyk was a replacement for the Saints, while lock Hendrik Roodt was a sub for Lyon.
– South African-born Canadian wing DTH van der Merwe scored a crucial try as the Glasgow Warriors beat the Sale Sharks 13-7. Bok tighthead prop Coenie Oosthuizen muscled his way over from close range for a try as Sale threatened a comeback, but the Warriors hung on for the win. Despite appearing on the losing side, Dan du Preez continued his excellent form, topping the carry stats with 44m gained from 17 carries, while also making 18 tackles, eight passes and three offloads. On-loan scrumhalf Embrose Papier accounted himself well in his first European appearance, making 83 passes in total. Jean-Luc du Preez, Jono Ross, Robert du Preez and Akker van der Merwe also all did duty for the Sharks. Glasgow had Oli Kebble at loosehead prop and Kyle Steyn on the bench.
– The Exeter Chiefs started their campaign with a bonus-point 31-12 away win over French side La Rochelle. Flank Jacques Vermeulen made 13 carries, gaining 12m, while making 17 tackles in another standout performance for the Chiefs since joining from the Sharks this season. Wiaan Liebenberg started at flank for La Rochelle, but was rather subdued, making 11 tackles before being replaced before the hour mark. Jannes Kirsten played 15 minutes at lock for the Chiefs.
– Marcell Coetzee played a starring role to help Ulster claim a narrow 17-16 away win against Bath. Starting at No 8, Coetzee made 19 carries (the most in the match) and 17 tackles, while also winning two crucial turnovers while Ulster defended their lead. Louis Ludik got just under 20 minutes off the bench for Ulster and made 32m from three carries.
– Muster scored a fourth try after the hooter to get a bonus point in their 31-13 victory against the Ospreys in Swansea. Irish-capped duo CJ Stander and Jean Kleyn started for Munster, while Arno Botha was a substitute. Stander made a massive 49m from 23 carries and came away with a 100% tackle success rate, completing all 17 of his attempts, while also winning two turnovers. The Ospreys had scrumhalf Shaun Venter, wing Hanno Dirksen and on-loan Lions lock Marvin Orie in their starting XV. Orie made 17 tackles, but missed seven of his attempts.
– Racing 92 piled more misery on to Saracens as they stunned the defending champions with a comfortable 30-10 win in Paris. Racing, who are second from bottom in the French Top 14, scored four tries to come away with a bonus point, leaving Saracens with plenty to ponder as the English giants battle a potential points deduction in the Premiership. Tighthead prop Vincent Koch and on-loan Damian Willemse both returned to Saracens from their World Cup exploits via the bench, but neither made enough of an impact to change the game in their side’s favour.
– Last season’s semi-finalists Toulouse began their campaign with a vital 25-20 away win over Gloucester. Bok flank Rynhardt Elstadt put in a Man of the Match performance as he disrupted Gloucester’s lineout and made a total of 18 tackles. Gloucester had Ruan Ackermann, Gerbrandt Grobler and Franco Marais in their starting lineup and brought Corne Fourie off the bench.
– Connacht produced one of the upsets of the round when they kicked a penalty in the final 20 minutes to beat Montpellier 23-20. The French giants fielded several South Africans in their match-day 23, including centre Jan Serfontein and locks Nico Janse van Rensburg and Paul Willemse in the starting XV. France-capped Willemse was harshly yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle just before half time. The Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, as well as lock Jacques du Plessis and utility back Henry Immelman made appearances for Montpellier from the bench.
– Wing Dean Hammond and tighthead prop Richard Palframan starred in the Worcester Warriors’ 57-14 thrashing of Enisei-STM. Palframan, who was schooled at Rondebosch Boys’ High in Cape Town, scored the opening try in the 17th minute of the game.
– The Dragons, featuring Brok Harris as a replacement prop, beat Castres 31-17. The French side had Robert Ebersohn on the bench, but the South African centre had to come on as early as the 21st minute as an injury replacement.
– Prop Marcel van der Merwe scored two crucial tries to help Toulon defeat French rivals Bayonne 20-13. Ex-Stormers scrumhalf Louis Schreuder was an unused substitution for the winners. Meanwhile, wing Sean Robinson and hooker Torsten van Jaarsveld started for Bayonne.
– The Scarlets edged London Irish 20-16 in an enthralling clash. Springbok flank Uzair Cassiem was influential for Scarlets, making 25m from 17 ball carries. The former Cheetahs players also made 18 tackles. Former Bulls prop Werner Kruger played alongside Cassiem for the Welsh club. Tighthead prop Pat Cilliers was in London Irish’s starting lineup.
– Former Kings captain Michael Willemse and his Edinburgh teammates secured a runaway 31-10 bonus-point victory over French minnows Agen.
– Wasps slumped to an agonising 40-30 loss against Bordeaux. Ex-Springbok duo Ashley Johnson (flank) and Juan de Jongh (centre) represented Wasps. Bordeaux used lock Jandre Marais an impact player off the bench in the second half.
– Replacement centre Lionel Mapoe was the only Saffa used in Stade Français’ match 23 in their 27-11 loss to Brive. Lock Jan Uys, who made 17 tackles, started for Brive.
– Locks Mike van Vuren and Adam Wessels and fullback Kayle van Zyl formed part of a Calvisano side that suffered 38-16 loss at the hands of the Cardiff Blues. Van Zyl played for 80 minutes, while the locks were subbed off in the second half.
– Ex-Stormer EW Viljoen started at fullback for the Leicester Tigers in their 41-20 thrashing of French team Pau. Springbok utility back Jaco Taute joined his compatriot on the field in the 59th minute when he replaced George Ford at flyhalf for the Tigers. Veteran prop Lourens Adriaanse sat on Brive’s bench, but came on in the 43rd minute.
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