SA quintet boosts Ulster’s form
19 Dec 2011
GARETH DUNCAN looks at the Saffas who impressed in the European Cup over the weekend.
Ulster, who are the latest European club to invest in a strong South African contingent, suffered a poor start to the Pro12. They currently sit eighth on their domestic log after losing five of their opening 10 matches. But they have shown better form recently, especially in the European Cup where they hold the lead in Pool 4 above Leicester Tigers and Clermont.
Lock and skipper Johann Muller, scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, No 8 Pedrie Wannenburg, flanker Robbie Diack and newly signed centre Stefan Terblanche each played a part in the Northern Irish side’s 46-20 away win over lock Quintin Geldenhuys and flyhalf Naas Olivier’s Aironi on Saturday.
Muller (who stole two of the opposition’s lineout throws and made seven tackles), Pienaar (who impressed in his favoured position) and Wannenburg (who completed three turnovers and made seven tackles) all featured in the first 40 before Diack and Terblanche made an impact off the bench. Diack scored one of Ulster’s six tries while Pienaar kicked two conversions in the 26-point drubbing.
In other results, Saffa-laden Saracens held on to beat Ospreys 16-13 in Swansea. The English Premiership champions, who had centre Brad Barritt, tighthead prop Matt Stevens, hooker Schalk Brits, lock Mouritz Botha, No 8 Ernst Joubert, and replacement hooker John Smit and prop Deon Carstens in their match 22, led 16-3 at the break. Joubert dotted down to contribute to the 13-point advantage before an ill-disciplined second-half showing, which saw Brits and flanker Kelly Brown yellow-carded, allowed the hosts to fight back. Sarries, however, did enough for the tight win to stay on top of Pool 5.
Hooker Richardt Strauss and tighthead prop Heinke van der Merwe inspired Leinster to a 52-27 thrashing of scrumhalf Michael Claassens and flanker Francois Louw’s Bath at Lansdowne Road. Both front rowers were powerful in the tight during a strong opening 40 performance, which set the platform for Louw’s second successive defeat as skipper.
Loosehead prop Wian du Preez and tighthead prop BJ Botha were also influential in unbeaten Munster’s 19-13 win over Scarlets in Limerick. Lock Francois van der Merwe and reserve flanker Bernard le Roux helped Racing Metro to their first European Cup win of the season as they downed tighthead prop Faan Rautenbach’s London Irish 25-19, while former WP centre Paul Bosch started in Montpellier’s 13-13 stalemate with Glasgow – the French club’s second draw of a poor campaign.