GARETH DUNCAN looks at the Saffas who impressed in Europe over the weekend.
Toulouse have proved to be the top French club this season. At the halfway mark of their domestic campaign, the defending champions head the Top 14 table with a six log point lead above Clermont, while they also hold first place in Pool 6 of the European Cup with three wins from four.
Toulouse’s South African contingent of hooker Gary Botha, props Daan Human and Gurthro Steenkamp and No 8 Shaun Sowerby have contributed to this impressive form. While Botha (broken leg) and Human (broken eye socket) are sidelined with recent serious injuries, Sowerby and Steenkamp helped the team to their sixth straight domestic win, a 51-10 thrashing of scrumhalf Ricky Januarie’s Lyon.
Sowerby was the standout forward at the Stade Ernest Wallon, especially on attack as he rushed 63m with ball in hand (the most by a forward), completed four offloads (the most in the game) and scored one of Toulouse’s five tries. The one-time Springbok also made five tackles and was a key figure in the lineouts. Steenkamp was solid up front when he came off the bench early in the second half.
Elsewhere in France, flanker Gerhard Vosloo played the full 80 minutes in Clermont’s crucial 25-19 comeback win over No 8 Joe van Niekerk and reserve lock Bakkies Botha’s Toulon. Wing Sam Gerber’s try wasn’t enough to help Bayonne as they lost 27-20 at home to scrumhalf Heini Adams’ Bordeaux. Lock Rob Linde also featured for the hosts.
Former WP centre Paul Bosch and former Lions and Bulls hooker Erasmus van Vuuren started in Montpellier’s 23-9 away victory over Brive, who had centre Riaan Swanepoel, wing Ronnie Cooke, lock Retief Uys and No 8 Antonie Claassen in their run-on XV.
In the English Premiership, Saffa-laden Saracens made valuable ground on log leaders Harlequins as they recorded a 26-19 win over flanker Francois Louw and scrumhalf Michael Claassens’ Bath in Watford. Hooker John Smit, prop Matt Stevens, lock Mouritz Botha, No 8 Ernst Joubert, centre Brad Barritt, reserve prop Petrus du Plessis and replacement No 8 Justin Melck all featured for the victors. Saracens are second in the standings, three log points behind Harlequins who lost 24-3 to reserve prop Brian Mujati’s Northampton Saints.
London Irish prop Faan Rautenbach came off the bench to play a part in his team’s late 21-19 win over Sale Sharks.
In the Pro 12, scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar kicked four penalties and two conversions in Ulster’s 42-20 win over Edinburgh at Murrayfield. Lock Johann Muller and No 8 Pedrie Wannenburg also started in the win. Munster props Wian du Preez and BJ Botha fronted their club’s 29-11 triumph over Treviso.