• Saffas Abroad: Vermeulen, Kolbe shine

    SARugbymag.co.za looks back at the South African players who featured for their respective clubs in the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup.

    CHAMPIONS CUP

    – Michael RhodesVincent Koch and captain Brad Barritt all produced excellent performances as defending European champions Saracens overturned the odds to beat PRO14 champions Leinster 25-17 in Dublin. Rhodes, playing at blindside flank, was named man of the match as he made 15 tackles and won three turnovers as Saracens were forced to defend their 22-3 half-time lead in the second half. Koch sent a message to the other tighthead props competing for a place in the  Springbok squad by putting in a massive shift, playing 79 minutes, missing none of his 15 tackles, winning three turnovers and outplaying opposite number Cian Healy by demolishing the Leinster scrum, helping Saracens win eight scrum penalties. Saracens captain Barritt also put in a solid showing at inside centre, making seven carries for 24 metres and completing all 16 of his attempted tackles. Saracens will face Racing 92 in the first semi-final on Saturday.

    – Racing 92 marched into the semi-finals as they won their French derby against Top 14 rivals Clermont 36-27, after taking a 24-8 lead into the break. Japan-capped, South African-born fullback Kotaro Matsushima started for Clermont and got on the scoresheet with a try in the second half as his side attempted an ultimately unsuccessful comeback. Matsushima played the full 80 minutes and made 10 carries, one clean break and beat nine defenders. Lock Bernard le Roux and No 8 Antonie Claassen started for Racing.

    – Springbok wing Cheslin Kolbe underlined his status as one of the world’s best players with a dazzling performance for Toulouse to help them claim a convincing 36-8 victory over PRO14 finalists Ulster. Kolbe scored a first-half brace – when he showcased his traditional sidestep off the right wing for both – while he also made 49m from six carries and two clean breaks to be named man of the match. Ulster were without No 8 Marcell Coetzee, who missed the match through injury, and his absence was felt. Hooker Rob Herring started for Ulster and made nine tackles, missing none.

    – Jacques Vermeulen scored a brace of tries as the Exeter Chiefs progressed to the Champions Cup semi-finals for the first time in their history with a 38-15 win over the Northampton Saints.  Vermeulen, who started at openside flank for the Chiefs, put his hand up for a place in the Springboks’ Rugby Championship squad with another impressive performance for the Premiership league leaders.  The 25-year-old scored a try in each half, while also making 47m from eight carries, beating five defenders while he also missed just one of his 16 attempted tackles and was named man of the match. Jannes Kirsten and Shaun Adendorff were loose-forward replacements for the Chiefs and Saints, respectively.

    Photo: David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images

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    Dylan Jack