GARETH DUNCAN looks at the Saffas who impressed in the leagues around the world over the weekend.
With most of the leagues in Europe nearing the play-off stages, there was plenty of drama all round.
The fairytale story in the Pro12 saw Glasgow steal a late 13-8 away win over lock Corniel van Zyl’s Treviso, which makes them one of the favourites to sneak in for a semi-final place in the standings. This is a major feat for the Scottish club, that has finished in the bottom half of the log for past several seasons – including 11th in the 2010-11 campaign.
They have Worcester-born wing DTH van der Merwe to thank for their latest victory at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo. Van der Merwe, who represented Boland as a junior before emigrating to Canada with his family, came off the bench and scored a 77th-minute try to give Glasgow the lead in the dying moments. He cut through the Treviso defence to have a clear run to the chalk. It was the speedster’s first appearance in the Pro12 after picking up a serious shoulder injury during Canada’s run at the 2011 World Cup.
Glasgow now sit in fourth spot in the Pro12 standings with 61 log points. Scarlets (who are fifth with 57 log points) and Ulster (who are sixth with 56 log points) are the only teams who can still deny them a play-off place. With only one round remaining next weekend, Glasgow can make things official in their final league fixture against Connacht.
In other Pro12 results, hooker Richardt Strauss and replacement prop Heinke van der Merwe helped Leinster consolidate their lead at the top of the table with a 16-8 win over scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, captain Johann Muller, fullback Stefan Terblanche, No 8 Pedrie Wannenburg and replacement flank Robbie Diack’s Ulster. Muller scored a try and Pienaar slotted a penalty for Ulster, who are now unlikely to feature in the semi-finals.
In the French Top 14, loosehead prop Daan Human was solid in Toulouse’s 30-21 comeback win over fullback Scott Spedding, wing Ronnie Cooke, inside centre Riaan Swanepoel and reserve flank Retief Uys’s Brive. Toulouse trailed 18-15 at the break, but went on to win to return to the top of the log with only two rounds remaining. Spedding crossed the chalk and Swanepoel added a conversion and three penalties for the losers.
Bayonne flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter continued his fine form with the boot, converting three of his four goal attempts (two conversions and a penalty) in his team’s 20-19 win over lock Coenie Basson, reserve scrumhalf Ricky Januarie and replacement hooker Jody Jenneker’s Lyon. Outside centre Sam Gerber, who created a try and forced three turnovers, also started for Bayonne. The victors are close to climbing out of the relegation zone.
Stade Francais lock Anton van Zyl impressed in his club’s 35-31 edging of centres Rudi Coetzee and Gavin Hume’s Perpignan. The former Stormers second rower made eight tackles, won three lineouts and stole one off the opposition’s feed. Hume came off the bench to score a try for Perpignan.
Scrumhalf Heini Adams scored a try in Bordeaux’s vital 29-15 win over flyhalf Conrad Barnard, tighthead prop Gert Muller, lock Dewald Senekal and flank Adri Badenhorst’s Agen. Barnard kicked a penalty for the latter, while tighthead prop Bees Roux featured off the wood for Bordeaux.
In the English Premiership, Saffa-laden Saracens settled for a hard-fought 9-3 win over director of rugby Gary Gold’s Newcastle Falcons, who had wing Corne Uys and fullback Greg Goosen in their run-on side. Hooker Schalk Brits, tighthead prop Matt Stevens, No 8 Ernst Joubert, replacement flank Justin Melck and reserve lock Mouritz Botha all played for Saracens, who have to win in the last round against the Exeter Chiefs next weekend for any chance of hosting a semi-final.
Scrumhalf Michael Claassens and reserve hooker Pieter Dixon’s Bath jumped up to mid-table after a 17-12 comeback win over the London Wasps, who led 9-0 at half-time.
Tighthead prop Brian Mujati did well in the Northampton Saints’ 18-15 win over the Exeter Chiefs.