Saffas Abroad: Versatile Kirsten could be Bok asset

Jannes Kirsten has shown why he should be in consideration for the British & Irish Lions series in his first start of the year for the Exeter Chiefs this past weekend.

In his first run-on since December, Kirsten shone as the Exeter Chiefs fought from a three-point half-time deficit to beat Harlequins 21-20. Kirsten has been out for the past few months after suffering a facial injury, but made his return to action off the bench last weekend.

The 27-year-old showed his versatility by starting in the No 4 jersey against Harlequins. With 16 tackles (completing all of them), he made the most of any Exeter player, while he also made 13 carries for 23 metres and won a turnover. It was a demonstration of why Kirsten could potentially be a valuable asset for the Springboks, especially if the Lions series is held in the UK.

Kirsten was joined by flank Jacques Vermeulen in Exeter’s starting lineup. Vermeulen is another pushing for a place in the Springbok squad and made eight carries and five tackles in his hour on the park.

Springbok tighthead Wilco Louw played a strong 67 minutes for Harlequins, making 11 tackles and winning a turnover. Another potential Springbok in wing Tyrone Green had a quieter match attacking-wise than in his previous two outings. However, the former Lions player still made seven carries, 14 tackles and beat one defender.

Speaking of Springboks, a Sale Sharks lineup chock full of them had a rare off evening as they slipped to a 17-14 loss to the Northampton Saints. Faf de KlerkAkker van der MerweCoenie OosthuizenLood de JagerCobus WieseJono Ross and the Du Preez brothers were all in action for Sale.

De Jager and Jean-Luc du Preez both scored a try and enjoyed strong games, despite ending up on the wrong side of the result. De Jager, who has been in excellent form since returning from a shoulder injury, made 16 carries and 12 tackles, one clean break and poached three lineouts.

Hanro Liebenberg had a strong return to action after completing his red-card ban. The former Vodacom Bulls player was at the forefront as the Leicester Tigers beat Gloucester 20-14. Playing at No 8, Liebenberg made 13 carries for 68m, beating four defenders, with two clean breaks and 17 tackles. Fellow loose forward Cyle Brink also had a strong outing at blindside flank, missing just one of his 17 tackle attempts, with 15 carries as well.

Also in action for Leicester was Kobus van Wyk and prop Luan de Bruin. Meanwhile, Ruan Ackermann had a good outing at No 8 for Gloucester, completing all 17 of his tackle attempts.

Meanwhile, Francois Hougaard and Francois Venter started for Worcester Warriors, who lost 20-17 to London Irish. Tian Schoeman and loosehead prop Juan Schoeman played for Bath, who won their clash with Newcastle 38-19.

Premiership table

Photo: Bob Bradford – CameraSport via Getty Images

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Dylan Jack