GARETH DUNCAN looks at the Saffas who impressed in Europe over the weekend.
Former Bulls and junior Springbok centre Stefan Watermeyer made a surprise exit at the Pretoria-based union in December to join Welsh club Ospreys on a short-term deal. With the recent retirement of Jaco Pretorius and release of Stephan Dippenaar, there was an opportunity for Watermeyer to compete with Wynand Olivier, Francois Venter and star signing Johann Sadie for a midfield berth. And considering the lengthy Super Rugby campaign, there would’ve been opportunities for the player who had represented the Bulls since U16 level.
However, the 23-year-old admitted that he always had the desire to feature in a foreign league, saying: ‘It’s a big move for me, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do – to go and play overseas. There’s a lot of good players here [at Ospreys] with international exposure, who I’m looking forward to training with and trying to learn from.
‘I’m here initially until the end of the season but I want to do enough to show the coaches that I can be an Ospreys player for a lot longer.’
A month and a half after the transfer announcement, Watermeyer made his senior debut for the club in the LV Cup, where he started in a 26-21 bonus-point victory over local rivals Newport Gwent Dragons in Bridgend. The No 12 scored a try and received the Man of the Match award for an outstanding all-round performance in front of a 6000-strong home crowd. Ospreys also started Krugersdorp-born wing Hanno Dirksen, who scored a 15th-minute try. It was Ospreys’ first win of the competition, following two earlier defeats.
In other LV Cup results, skipper and flanker Francois Louw and scrumhalf Michael Claassens helped Bath to a 46-14 drubbing of reserve prop Brian Mujati’s Northampton Saints. Despite showing poor form in the European Cup and the English Premiership, Bath are one of two undefeated teams in the competition with three bonus-point wins.
Saracens rested most of their nine Saffas as they fielded a second string side in their 41-14 win over reserve fullback Errie Claassens’ Worcester Warriors. Tighthead prop Petrus du Plessis, loosehead prop John Smit and flanker Justin Melck started for the Watford club, with Melck scoring one of four tries.
In terms of management, former Springbok assistant coach Gary Gold started his director of rugby tenure at Newcastle Falcons with a 37-7 win over flanker Hendre Fourie’s Sale Sharks. Lock Adriaan Fondse and centre Corne Uys started for the victors.
In the French Top 14, centre Paul Bosch scored the decisive try in Montpellier’s 38-6 home win over Stade Francais. Lock Drikus Hancke was in the hosts’s run-on side while second rower Gerhard Mostert received a yellow card during his appearance for the visitors. Montepellier now hold a play-off place in the standings.
Loosehead prop Gurthro Steenkamp had a strong scrumming performance in Toulouse’s 19-13 win over outside centre Frans Steyn and No 8 Jacques Cronje’s Racing Metro. Reserve prop Daan Human came on for the defending champions in the 58th minute while in-form No 8 Shaun Sowerby started.
Captain and No 8 Joe van Niekerk led Toulon to a 50-10 thrashing of outside centre Sam Gerber’s 14-man Bayonne, who now drop to the foot of the table. Scrumhalf Rory Kockott kicked a crucial penalty in Castres’ 29-23 home win over Biarritz.
Fullback Scott Spedding scored a try in lock Retief Uys, No 8 Antonie Claassen and reserve flyhalf Riaan Swanepoel’s Brive’s 17-9 win over lock Gerrie Britz and reserve wing Rudi Coetzee’s Perpignan.
Scrumhalf Ricky Januarie started in Lyon’s vital 19-11 win over tighthead prop Gert Muller, lock Dewald Senekal and No 8 Adri Badenhorst’s Agen. The former Bok and Stormers No 9 was replaced by former Cheetahs halfback Tewis de Bruyn late in the second half.