Domestic action resumed in England and France, with plenty of Springboks involved as the race for playoff places in the Premiership and Top 14 heats up.
– Jean-Luc du Preez grabbed a try to help Sale Sharks seal their place in the playoffs with an impressive away win against Bristol Bears on Friday night. Du Preez also picked up a try assist and beat five defenders, while his brother, Robert du Preez, played 58 minutes at outside centre. Sale also had hooker Akker van der Merwe, No 8 Jono Ross and tighthead prop Coenie Oosthuizen in action. Van der Merwe made 10 tackles in 65 minutes and Ross made 10 carries and beat two defenders.
– Bath came from behind to beat rivals Gloucester 33-24 after trailing by 17 points at Kingsholm. Loose forward Chris Cloete and lock GJ van Velze started for Bath, who moved six points clear of Newcastle at the bottom of the table.
– Andre Esterhuizen got in on the action as Harlequins scored seven tries in a bonus-point 48-20 victory over Newcastle Falcons on Saturday afternoon. Esterhuizen was joined by tighthead prop Wilco Louw and lock Irne Herbst in Harlequins’ starting lineup. The win saw sixth-placed Harlequins stay seven points outside the top four.
– Northampton Saints boosted their semi-final hopes with a bonus-point 39-28 win over 14-man Saracens. Western Cape-born England lock David Ribbans produced a man-of-the-match performance in his last appearance at Saints’ home ground, before his move to France next season, while Juarno Augustus had a solid outing at No 8 for Northampton. Ivan van Zyl was on the bench for Saracens.
– Handre Pollard and Jasper Wiese starred as Leicester Tigers moved closer to a place in the semi-finals with a 62-19 rout of Exeter Chiefs. In another classy performance at flyhalf, Pollard made 23 metres, beat three defenders, completed 11 passes and produced two of Leicester’s eight tries. Wiese played 53 minutes at No 8, but in that time already clocked 58 metres from nine carries and beat three defenders. Leicester captain Hanro Liebenberg won five lineouts and one turnover at blindside flank. A heavily-changed Exeter side had Aidon Davis at blindside flank.
Handre Pollard, take a bow ?
A brilliant break and kick to send Dan Kelly over for @LeicesterTigers ?
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) April 16, 2023
– Racing 92 climbed into the top six playoff places by coming from behind to snatch a 31-28 win over Bordeaux with a late penalty try. Bok tighthead Trevor Nyakane started for Racing, while lock Anton Bresler and fullback Warrick Gelant both played off the bench. The win saw Racing leapfrog Bordeaux into sixth place on the log.
– Toulon climbed into fourth place by beating strugglers Perpignan 37-15 for their third win in a row. The hosts were without Cheslin Kolbe and Cornell du Preez, but still managed to score five tries for a bonus-point victory. Perpignant had Tristan Tedder at flyhalf and he kicked a conversion and penalty.
– Montpellier lost ground on the top six after falling to a 28-19 home loss to 11th-placed Castres. Bok flank Nico Janse van Rensburg started for Montpellier, who had Cobus Reinach on the bench.
– Stade Francais bounced back from two successive losses by battling to a 27-22 away win over Brive, to climb into third place on the log. Jeremy Ward was at outside centre for Stade, who had James Hall on the bench.
– Dillyn Leyds had an eventful outing in his return to action for La Rochelle, in a 26-6 victory over Bayonne. Starting at fullback, Leyds was yellow carded towards the end of the first half for a cynical foul, but otherwise enjoyed a performance that saw him make 95 metres and two linebreaks in 65 minutes. La Rochelle are second on the log, while Bayonne, who had Uzair Cassiem at No 8, have fallen to eighth after three successive losses.
– A thriller 67-point between Toulouse and Lyon saw the league leaders bounce back from a shock loss to Castres by holding on for a narrow win. Toulouse, who are six points clear at the top of the table, had Rynhardt Elstadt on the bench, while fifth-placed Lyon had Arno Botha at No 8.
Japan League One
– In the standout result from the weekend, the Shizuoka Blue Revs became the first team to beat the Wild Knights in four years, ending a 48-game unbeaten run by the league leaders. Making the feat even more notable was that the Blue Revs were without No 8 Kwagga Smith. The Wild Knights played Damian de Allende off the bench and rested Bok lock Lood de Jager.
– Toyota Verblitz continued their strong finish to the season as a last-minute conversion gave them a 36-34 win over the Black Rams. Pieter-Steph du Toit and Willie le Roux both started for Verblitz, who claimed their second win in a row.
– Frans Ludeke opted to leave several of his big names either on the bench, or out of the match day squad altogether, but it made little difference at Kubota Spears coasted to an eight-try win over Green Rockets. Despite only taking the field 20 minutes into the second half, Malcolm Marx had a try within a minute, taking his tally for the season to 10, the leading try-scorer among the forwards, and fourth overall. South African second-row forwards Ruan Botha and David Bulbring also got their names on the scoresheet.
– Canon Eagles, featuring Jesse Kriel in the starting lineup and Faf de Klerk on the bench, fell to an 11-9 loss to Suntory Sungoliath in a match played in driving rain.
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