SARugbymag.co.za looks back at the past weekend’s English Premiership, Pro14, French Top 14 and Major League Rugby matches involving South African players.
– Saracens will get a chance to defend their title after beating Gloucester 44-19 in the semi-finals. The defending champions will be sweating over the fitness of captain Brad Barritt, who hobbled off just before the half-hour mark. Vincent Koch played just under an hour, making five tackles and winning a turnover, while Michael Rhodes got 20 minutes of action off the bench. Gloucester had Franco Marais, Franco Mostert, Ruan Ackermann, Ruan Dreyer and Jaco Kriel in their pack. Dreyer crossed for one of Gloucester’s tries in the second half, while Kriel was the standout player, making an impressive 31m with ball in hand as well as five tackles and a turnover.
– The Exeter Chiefs set up a rematch of last year’s final by claiming a 42-12 victory over the Northampton Saints. Cobus Reinach played 58 minutes of the match, but despite making 41m from eight carries, could not influence the result or add to his tally of 14 tries this season. Frans van Wyk was at loosehead prop for the Saints and was replaced after 54 minutes.
– Leinster defended their Pro14 title, going back to back, thanks to a narrow 18-15 win against the Glasgow Warriors in the final. Kyle Steyn continued in Glasgow’s midfield and threatened throughout the game with 10 carries, but was also yellow-carded at a crucial stage of the match in the second half. Canadian international DTH van der Merwe and replacement pop Oli Kebble were also in action for the Warriors.
– Stade Français missed out on a place in the playoffs, as a 31-17 victory over Pau was not enough to see them climb into the top six. Morné Steyn started his final game for Heyneke Meyer’s side, being set to join the Vodacom Bulls next season, kicking three conversions and a penalty. Piet van Zyl, who announced he will go back to farming at the end of the season, also made his last appearance for the Parisians, coming on as a substitute with countryman Willem Alberts. Pau, who finished the season in 11th place, brought former Sharks tighthead Lourens Adriaanse off the bench.
– League leaders Toulouse, already secure of top spot and a place in the semi-finals, handed relegated Perpignan a demoralising 47-7 defeat. Cheslin Kolbe started at fullback for Toulouse, but was replaced just after half-time with the result virtually sealed at that stage. Tighthead prop Maks van Dyk came off the bench for Toulouse for the final 20 minutes of the match. Johann van Heerden was at lock for Perpignan and was yellow-carded in the first half.
– Racing 92 secured their place in the playoffs after powering to a 35-3 win against Agen. Veteran scrumhalf Ricky Januarie, and former Bulls and Cheetahs centre Johann Sadie both started for Agen, who finished in 12th place. Racing, who finished in fourth place, will host La Rochelle in the qualifiers.
– Toulon produced the shock result of the round, denying defending champions Castres a playoff spot with a 25-16 victory. Castres hooker Jody Jenneker crossed for a try three minutes before fulltime after coming off the bench in the 45th minute. Rory Kockott and outside centre Robert Ebersohn also did duty for Castres, who finished an agonising one point outside the top six.
– Montpellier took full advantage of Castres’ loss, as their 28-27 win against second-placed Clermont allowed them to finish in sixth place. Montpellier had the second-row combination of Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg and Paul Willemse, as well as No 8 Jacques du Plessis, centre Jan Serfontein and fullback Henry Immelman in their starting lineup. Flip van der Merwe started for Clermont. Montpellier will travel to face Lyon in the qualifiers, with the winner facing Clermont in the semi-finals.
– Lyon finished in third place by beating Grenoble 24-23. Locks Etienne Oosthuizen and Francois van der Merwe played for Lyon, while Francois Uys was in Grenoble’s second row.
– La Rochelle finished in fifth place, thanks to an emphatic 12-try 81-12 victory over Bordeaux. Wiaan Liebenberg was at blindside flank for La Rochelle and grabbed a brace of tries in an impressive performance.
Major League Rugby
– Rugby United New York closed the gap between themselves and first-placed San Diego Legion with a 24-22 victory over Nola Gold. JP Eloff captained Nola and kicked two conversions and a penalty, while centre Tristan Blewett was yellow-carded in the first half. Hubert Buydens was in Nola’s front row. New York are four points from the top of the table, with just one round left to play.
– The Austin Elite remain winless after slumping to a 36-15 loss to the Houston Sabercats. Austin, with hooker Tiaan Erasmus, lock Kyle Breytenbach, flank Rikus Swart and fullback Zinzan Elan-Puttick, remain the team without a win in the competition.
– The Toronto Arrows stayed level on points with New York after a 40-12 victory against the Glendale Raptors. Scrumhalf Carlo de Nysschen scored a try for the Raptors, who are all but out of the race for the semi-finals, while Chad London started at inside centre for the home side.
– The Utah Warriors claimed a 27-27 draw with the Seattle Seawolves. Scrumhalf JP Smith got on the scoresheet with a first half try for the Seawolves, who lost hooker Stephan Coetzee to a yellow card. Loosehead prop Franco van den Berg started for Utah.
— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) May 27, 2019
Photo: Xavier Leoty/AFP/Getty Images