• Saffas Abroad: Coetzee lifts Ulster to opening win

    SARugbymag.co.za looks back at the South African players who featured for their respective clubs in the opening round of the 2020-21 PRO14 season.

    –  Springbok loose forward Marcell Coetzee scored a crucial try to stave off a brave Benetton fight and give last season’s PRO14 finalists, Ulster, an 35-24 opening win over the Italian side. Ulster were in for the fight of their lives when Coetzee, who this week was honoured as the Player of the Season, Players’ Player of the Season and Rugby Personality of the Season at the club’s annual awards, went over to seal the bonus point and break the spirit of the plucky Italian side. Before then they had fought back with three tries – including one to South African-born Italian international Braam Steyn to leave the teams deadlocked at 21 all. But Coetzee’s try and a late finish by his teammates ensured a positive start for the Belfast side as they look to build on the final appearance a few weeks back. Ulster also had hooker Rob Herring in their starting lineup and brought wing Louis Ludick off the bench. Ludick replaced Coetzee and had to pack down on the side of a scrum with five minutes to go, before a comical power outage cause a halt. Scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage started for Benetton.

    –  Munster coach Johan van Graan was a relieved man after his side suffered a red card – thanks to two yellows to captain Peter O’Mahony – but rallied for a sensational win despite their own indiscretions. Munster were trailing 27-17 when O’Mahony received his second yellow card and had 11 minutes to go, but somehow surged back with 14 men to claim a famous win against the Scarlets, winning 30-27 with a late penalty. Scarlets were outscored three tries to nil, but a magnificent kicking performance by Leigh Halfpenny, who contributed nine penalties for all his side’s points, should have been enough. Instead, Bok centre Damian de Allende provided the assist for a vital try to midfield partner Chris Farrell and a rolling maul had them draw even before Ben Healy held his nerve with the big penalty at the end to win the game. In total, De Allende beat four defenders, made 52 metres and offloaded once in a classy performance. Munster also had Ireland-capped No 8 CJ Stander and lock Jean Kleyn in their starting XV. Veteran tighthead prop Werner Kruger started for the Scarlets.

    – James Lowe scored a brace to see Leinster to an easy 35-5 win over the Dragons on Friday night as the PRO14’s defending champions continued their march in the competition. Leinster have now won their last 18 matches in the PRO14 and will take some stopping this season. Former Stormers loosehead prop Brok Harris started for the Dragons.

    – Bundee Aki was celebrated as the two-try hero as Connacht downed Glasgow Warriors 28-24 at the Sportsground, with Quinn Roux adding a try to his name as the Irish side kicked off the season in style. Former Stormers centre Huw Jones, who continued to play at fullback, was one of the Warriors try-scorers on the night, but despite slugging it out they fell just short on a bad weekend for the Scottish sides. Loosehead prop Oli Kebble started for the Warriors.

    –  Matt Protheroe scored a brace as well as the Ospreys ensured one of two Welsh wins on the weekend, beating Edinburgh 25-10 at Murrayfield. The result at  Murrayfield marks only Ospreys’ second victory since October 2019, while Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh have now lost four successive matches in all competitions for the first time since April 2017. Edinburgh were without star wing Duhan van der Merwe, but did have Pierre SchoemanJaco van der Walt and replacement tighthead prop WP Nel in their match-day 23.

    – A Josh Adams try and great defence allowed Cardiff to grind out a 16-6 win over Zebre in the weekend’s other fixture. Loose forward Johan Meyer started for Zebre.

    Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images