GARETH DUNCAN looks at the Saffas who impressed in the leagues around the world over the weekend.
It was a month ago when I mentioned Brent Russell in this weekly piece, and the Pocket Rocket has continued to impress for Clermont in the French Top 14. The wing has been in top try-scoring form over the past few weeks, crossing the chalk on three occasions in Les Jaunards’ four league wins in February and March. This has helped Clermont close the gap on current table leaders Toulouse to just four log points with six rounds remaining.
The former Stormers and Sharks flyer’s latest try came in the 29-20 away victory over flyhalf Conrad Barnard, locks Dewald Senekal and Adri Badenhorst, and tighthead prop Gert Muller’s Agen at the Stade Armandie on Saturday. With only a 12-11 lead at half-time, Russell scored early in the second half to stretch Clermont’s advantage. Despite Barnard’s 15 points with the boot, the visitors managed to seal the win when French hooker Benjamin Kayser dived over in the final quarter. Former Cheetahs’ tighthead prop Daniel Kotze also started for the victors.
It is well known that Southern Kings boss Alan Solomons plans to recruit a few European-based Saffas ahead of the Eastern Cape franchise’s Super Rugby debut next year, especially those players who were born and bred in the region. Although he’s 32 years old, PE-born and Selborne College old boy Russell is proving that he still has the pace and try-scoring ability to add value to the Kings squad in 2013.
In other results in France, inside centre Rudi Coetzee dotted down in Perpignan’s second-half fightback against Toulon, who were missing skipper Joe van Niekerk and lock Bakkies Botha to injury. After trailing 16-6 at the break, Perpignan, who also started flyhalf Gavin Hume, salvaged a 22-22 draw.
Outside centre Frans Steyn, flanker Bernard le Roux and No 8 Jacques Cronje played the full 80 minutes in Racing Metro’s 22-13 win over tighthead prop Bees Roux and scrumhalf Heini Adams’ Bordeaux. Racing second rower Francois van der Merwe was substituted early in the second half. Stade Francais started locks Anton van Zyl and Gerhard Mostert in their 40-19 win over scrumhalf Ricky Januarie’s lowly Lyon.
No 8 Shaun Sowerby, loosehead prop Daan Human and replacement front rower Gurthro Steenkamp featured in Toulouse’s 34-27 win over reserve prop Michael Coetzee and scrumhalf Rory Kockott’s Castres. The defending champions scored two late tries to triumph.
In the LV Cup, skipper Francois Louw and scrumhalf Michael Claassens‘ Bath suffered heartbreak in their semi-final fixture against Leceister as flyhalf George Ford kicked a late penalty for a 17-16 win for the Tigers at the Rec.
In the only Pro 12 match over the weekend, replacement flyhalf Naas Olivier’s Aironi shocked defending champions Munster 21-17 in Viadana. Loosehead prop Wian du Preez started for the Irish club, while tighthead prop BJ Botha played off the wood.
In Japan, scrumhalf Fourie du Preez and flank Danie Rossouw’s Suntory Sungoliath will face outside centre Jaque Fourie’s Panasonic Wild Knights in the Japan Cup final after their clubs won their respective semi-final games. Suntory beat Toshiba Brave Lupus 23-8, while the Wild Knights thrashed the NEC Green Rockets 41-3.
In Super Rugby, scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius started in the Waratahs’ 18-17 loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin. Flanker Jarrod Saffy came off the bench to make his first tournament appearance of the season in the Rebels’ 11-6 defeat to the Reds in Brisbane. The Johannesburg-born league convert made 10 tackles in his 26 minutes on the field.