GARETH DUNCAN looks at the Saffas who impressed in Europe over the weekend.
Former Cheetahs hooker Richardt Strauss started in Leinster’s 52-9 mauling of Cardiff Blues in Dublin. The hardman has owned the Irish club’s No 2 jersey with powerful performances up front, and he delivered another one to help Leinster to their biggest league win of the season. He formed part of a strong front row, who shone when they kept the visitors out from a series of 5m attacking scrums, while he also had an impact on attack and defence. Reserve prop Heinke van der Merwe also featured as he came off the bench early in the second half.
Strauss, who left South Africa in 2009, becomes eligible to play for Ireland in the new year and local reports suggest that the IRFU is interested in using his services. The 25-year-old has already confirmed the desire to play Test rugby for his adoptive nation to SA Rugby magazine after Leinster’s European Cup final triumph last season, so we could see the Grey College old boy don a different shade of green on the international stage in the near future.
Also in the Pro12, lock Johann Muller and flanker Pedrie Wannenburg played a part in Ulster’s 24-17 win over Scarlets. World Cup Springbok Ruan Pienaar also made his first appearance for the Belfast-based club as he came off the bench to fill in at his preferred position of scrumhalf. Flyhalf Willem de Waal kicked a penalty and a conversion in Treviso’s 15-13 away win over Connacht.
In the French Top 14, pivot Conrad Barnard continued to play an influential role with the boot in Agen’s campaign. This time, he kicked 20 points via five penalties, a conversion and drop goal in his team’s 37-18 win over centre Sam Gerber and lock Rob Linde’s Bayonne to secure fourth place on the log. Tighthead prop Gert Muller, lock Dewald Senekal and flanker Adri Badenhorst (who picked up a yellow card) also turned out for the victors.
Former Springbok scrumhalf Ricky Januarie played the full 80 minutes in a rare win for Lyon as they beat Perpignan 19-12. Former Bulls No 9 Heini Adams also saw out Bordeaux’s 16-12 win over Brive, who had tighthead prop Pat Barnard, No 8 Antonie Claassen, wing Ronnie Cooke and flyhalf Riaan Swanepoel (who’s normally a centre) in the starting line-up.
In the English Premiership, Saffa-laden Saracens picked up a hard-fought 15-11 victory at home over tighthead prop Faan Rautenbach’s London Irish. It was challenging start for Sarries as hooker John Smit picked up a yellow card in the 11th minute of his third start for a professional foul in his team’s red zone. But the hosts did enough to finish on top, with loosehead prop Matt Stevens, lock Mouritz Botha and No 8 Ernst Joubert all chipping in for the win.
Scrumhalf Michael Claassens’ try couldn’t help Bath as they lost 16-13 against Sale Sharks after leading 10-0 at the break. Centre Corne Uys, fullback Greg Goosen and reserve lock Adriaan Fondse contributed to a Newcastle Falcons’ much-needed 26-25 win over Gloucester – only their second league win of the season.
Northampton Saints tighthead prop Brian Mujati started in the controversial fixture against Leicester Tigers, which saw wing Alesana Tuilagi and flanker Tom Wood both red-carded for a punch up. Leicester went on to win 30-25.