SARugbymag.co.za looks back at the South African players who featured for their respective clubs in the first round of the French Top 14 this weekend.
– Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard‘s form off the kicking tee was not enough to prevent Montpellier from slumping to a surprise 26-23 loss to Pau in the opening match of the season on Friday. Pollard kicked two conversions and three penalties for a haul of 13 points and created the first try of the 2020-21 season. He was one of four South Africans in Montpellier’s starting lineup, with Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg and Paul Willemse forming the lock pairing, while Jan Serfontein started at inside centre. Montpellier coach Xavier Garbajosa kept Bismarck du Plessis and Cobus Reinach on the bench for a second-half impact. Reinach made his debut in the second stanza, but could not stop Pau from grabbing a win. Lourens Adriaanse was on the bench for Pau and the tighthead prop made a big impact in the second half, shoving the Montpellier pack backwards at the scrum to help get the winning penalty try after the hooter.
– Springboks Dillyn Leyds and Raymond Rhule both enjoyed successful debuts for La Rochelle, helping their side claim a 29-15 victory over Toulon. Leyds started in the No 14 jersey and played the full 80 minutes, making eight carries, beating three defenders, with one clean break and running 67 metres, while also winning two turnovers. Meanwhile, Rhule was named in a slightly unfamiliar position at outside centre, but also did a good job, playing 62 minutes, making five carries, four passes, 49m and missing just one of his three tackles. Rhule’s efforts earned him a place in the Top 14 Team of the Week. Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth came off the bench for Toulon in the second half, but left the field prematurely after suffering a rib injury that will have both his club and national coaches concerned.
– France-capped South African scrumhalf Rory Kockott scored a first-half try as Castres survived a second-half comeback to beat Agen 26-22. To go with his try, Kockott also made 53 passes, 10 kicks, three carries (beating one defender) with 42m gained. Johann Sadie started at outside centre for Agen, who had former Pumas and Griquas lock Jeremy Jordaan on the bench.
– Brive got their 2020-21 season off to a comfortable start by punishing an ill-disciplined Bayonne side with a 42-23 victory. Lock Peet Marais, flank Retief Marais and former Cheetahs centre Nico Lee all started for Brive. Lee starred for his side, earning a place in the Team of the Week.
– Springbok flank Rynhardt Elstadt‘s brace of tries could not prevent Toulouse from losing a thrilling and high-tempered opener to Clermont 33-30. A total of four cards were dished out, with Toulouse spending most of the match with 13 men after losing starting lock pair Richie Arnold and Joe Tekori to red cards either side of half time. Clermont’s Daniel Biziwu and Toulon’s Julien Marchand were also shown yellow. To go with his brace, Elstadt also made 11 tackle (missing one), seven carries, two passes, while also winning a turnover. Cheslin Kolbe started on the left wing and played 54 minutes, making one linebreak and running 27m. South African-born Japan star Kotaro Matsushima made his debut at fullback for Clermont but unfortunately went off injured after just 16 minutes.
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