SARugbymag.co.za looks back at the past weekend’s Top 14 and English Premiership matches involving South African players.
– In the first round of the new Premiership season last season’s finalists, the Exeter Chiefs, got off to a solid start with a 22-19 win over Harlequins. Flank Jacques Vermeulen had an excellent game for Chiefs, making 32 metres from 16 carries while also completing all 16 of his tackles. Stephan Lewies was at lock for Harlequins and active in defence, making 15 tackles and winning a turnover.
– Gloucester claimed a nailbiting 18-16 victory over the Sale Sharks, with both sides fielding lineups filled with South Africans. Sale flyhalf Robert du Preez kicked three penalties and a conversion, but hit the post with a penalty that would have given the Sharks a win in the closing stages of the match. Akker van der Merwe continued his good form for Sale as he came out on tops in his battle with Gloucester’s Franco Marais. Van der Merwe set up Sale’s only try of the match with a typical barnstorming run, while he also made 38m from three carries, beating three defenders in the process. Jean-Luc du Preez enjoyed a good outing at lock for Sale against Gerbrandt Grobler of Gloucester, while Daniel du Preez (Sale) and Ruan Ackermann (Gloucester) were evenly matched at No 8. Jono Ross was at blindside flank for the Sharks, while Jaco Kriel had an effective game at openside for Gloucester, making 38m from eight carries along with 19 tackles and a turnover. Coenie Oosthuizen, Embrose Papier and Rohan Janse van Rensburg were on the bench for Sale, while hooker Corne Fourie was a replacement for Gloucester.
– The Northampton Saints got their season off to a flying start as they nailed a late penalty to stun defending champions Saracens in a 27-25 win in London. Saints’ replacements Michael van Vuuren (hooker) and Francois van Wyk (loosehead prop) were the only South African players involved in the match.
– The Worcester Warriors claimed a 24-16 home victory over the Leicester Tigers to begin their season on a successful note. Francois Hougaard had a very good outing at scrumhalf for the Warriors, making a massive 91 passes while carrying the ball 13 times and making 41m and offloading five times. Former Stormers centre EW Viljoen was in Leicester colours for the first time since his move from the Cape and made 34m from six carries. Hanro Liebenberg was the Tigers’ standout forward, making 42m from nine carries with 10 tackles. Cornell du Preez was at No 8 for Worcester and made way for Gerrit-Jan van Velze in the second half.
– Newly promoted London Irish made an excellent start to life in the Premiership as they held on to stun Wasps in a 26-29 away win in Coventry. Franco van der Merwe and Ruan Botha formed the lock pairing for the Irish. Van der Merwe was replaced after just 27 minutes, while Botha was yellow-carded for a cynical maul infringement. Centre Juan de Jongh and loose forward Nizaam Carr were both substitutes for Wasps. De Jongh came on to the field as an injury replacement in the first half, making 20m from five carries while beating two defenders. Carr was substituted in the final 20 minutes of the match and made six carries.
FRENCH TOP 14
– Montpellier defeated Toulouse 33-22 at home to move back into the top half of the table. Fullback Henry Immelman, centre Jan Serfontein, locks Paul Willemse and Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg and No 8 Jacques du Plessis and prop Jannie du Plessis turned out for Montpellier, with Immelman slotting a 65th-minute penalty. Prop Maks van Dyk, lock Rynhardt Elstadt and wing Werner Kok represented Toulouse. Kok crashed over for his maiden try in the Top 14.
– Prop Jacobie Adriaanse and his Pau teammates clinched a thrilling 37-24 victory over Castres. The result takes Pau up to eight on the log, while Castres move down to 12th. Jody Jenneker, Rob Ebersohn and Rory Kockott played for Castres.
– Stade Français slumped to yet another defeat, this time going down 27-14 against Agen. Carlu Sadie, James Hall and Morne Steyn were in Stade’s lineup, with Steyn kicking two conversions. Johann Sadie was selected at wing for the winning team. Stade are languishing at the bottom of the table.
– Toulon claimed a prize when they turned over the highflying Bayonne 20-9 in Mayol. Tighthead prop Marcell van der Merwe was given a starting role by Toulon, but was later replaced by compatriot Wilco Louw. Scrumhalf Louis Schreuder was also a second-half replacement for the the winners. Wing Sean Robinson started for Bayonne.
– Brive pulled off the upset of the round when they hammered a 14-man Bordeaux 30-9. Peet Marais and Jan Uys featured in Brive’s second row. The bonus-point win keeps Brive in the top 10 in the standings.
– Racing 92 slumped to an agonising 12-6 loss against La Rochelle. Wiaan Liebenberg played openside flank for La Rochelle and Antonie Claassen started at the back of the scrum for Racing, who are second last on the log.
– Log leaders Lyon were handed a shock 24-15 defeat by Clermont. In a tryless encounter, Clermont outkicked Lyon eight penalties to five. Second rower Etienne Oosthuizen featured for Lyon, who are still four log points clear at the summit of the standings.
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