GARETH DUNCAN looks at the Saffas who impressed in Europe over the weekend.
In the French Top 14, Toulouse have set the pace at the top of the table. They’ve collected 65 log points following their 14 wins and one draw from their 17 fixtures. Clermont are their nearest rivals, as they trail the defending champions by six log points in second place. The two clubs are expected to qualify for home semi-finals as there is a notable gap between them and the rest of the pack (Toulon sit in third place with 50 log points).
While Toulouse is France’s most successful team with 18 domestic titles, Clermont have been the most consistent club in recent years. They’ve featured in four finals in the last five seasons, winning their first title in the 2009-10 campaign by beating Perpignan 19-6. With nine rounds left, Clermont will be aiming for another run in to the title decider as wing Brent Russell and flanker Gerhard Voslooscored tries in their latest 31-13 victory over Racing Metro at the Stade Marcel Michelin – taking their current unbeaten Top 14 run to five matches.
Russell, who has recently cemented himself a starting place, finished smartly out wide to help his team to a 21-5 half-time lead. Vosloo crossed the chalk for the crucial bonus-point try late in the second half. Racing Metro started centre Frans Steyn, lock Francois van der Merwe and No 8 Jacques Cronje in the defeat, with Steyn scoring a consolation try at the death.
In other results, Toulon captain and No 8 Joe van Niekerk scored a try in his team’s 44-7 drubbing of tighthead prop Bees Roux’s Bordeaux. Centre Rudi Coetzee scored a try for Perpignan, but it wasn’t enough as they lost 22-11 to lock Drikus Hancke and centre Paul Bosch’s Montpellier.
Loosehead prop Daan Human started in Toulouse’s 20-15 win over Biarritz, while No 8 Shaun Sowerby and loosehead prop Gurthro Steenkamp featured off the bench.
In the Pro 12, Ulster’s South African contingent starred in their 30-12 win over the Newport Gwent Dragons, despite receiving two yellow cards in the match. Eighthman Robbie Diack, scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar and fullback Stefan Terblanche scored tries while Pienaar also added two conversions and two penalties.
Front rowers Richardt Strauss and Heinke van der Merwe started in Leinster’s 42-8 thrashing of wing Benjamin de Jager’s Treviso, with Strauss scoring one of five tries.
In the English Premiership, Saffa-laden Saracens pipped London Wasps 22-17. Loosehead prop and captain John Smit and flanker Justin Melck featured in the run-on side while hooker Schalk Brits, scrumhalf Neil de Kock and prop Petrus du Plessis played off the bench.
Skipper and flanker Francois Louw, scrumhalf Michael Claassen and reserve hooker Peter Dixon helped Bath to a crucial 30-24 win over lock Adriaan Fondse and fullback Greg Goosen’s Newcastle Falcons.