GARETH DUNCAN looks at the Saffas who impressed in the leagues around the world over the weekend.
Three weeks ago, I headlined with Bayonne flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter as he spearheaded the club’s French Top 14 survival quest. He’s done an effective job for the Basque side since then, kicking them to consecutive victories over Biarritz (21 points in 24-19 win) and Lyon (seven points in 20-19 win).
Potgieter’s latest goal-kicking performance helped Bayonne complete a three-match winning streak last Saturday, which puts them in a strong position to avoid relegation. The former Bulls, Cheetahs and Sharks pivot slotted four conversions and a penalty to push Bayonne to a convincing 31-10 win over flyhalf Conrad Barnard, tighthead prop Gert Muller, lock Dewald Senekal and flanker Adri Badenhorst’s Agen. Potgieter also rushed 50m with ball in hand, made three tackles and forced a turnover.
Another Saffa contributed to the victory at the Stade Jean Dauger – outside centre Sam Gerber crossed the chalk in the first half.
Heading into the last round of the Top 14 league phase, Bayonne are five log points above the relegation zone. They need one log point in their final fixture against scrumhalf Rory Kockott’s Castres to seal their position in the French top tier next season.
In other results in France, lock Bakkies Botha and skipper Joe van Niekerk helped confirm Toulon’s place in the play-offs as they beat log leaders Toulouse 25-22 at the Stade Félix-Mayol. The duo were solid on defence as Botha made six tackles and was characteristically physical up front, while Van Niekerk made four tackles and completed two turnovers.
Scrumhalf Heini Adams featured in Bordeaux’s 23-9 victory over fullback Scott Spedding, inside centre Riaan Swanepoel, wing Ronnie Cooke, reserve lock Retief Uys and No 8 Antonie Claassen’s Brive. The former Bulls No 9 has started for the club all season and their latest triumph sees them avoid the drop. Brive, however, are likely to be relegated.
In the English Premiership, Saffa-laden Saracens finished their league run with a 40-22 drubbing of the Exeter Chiefs. Inside centre Brad Barritt, hooker Schalk Brits, lock Mouritz Botha, flank Justin Melck, eighthman Ernst Joubert and reserve scrumhalf Neil de Kock all featured for the victors. Barritt and Melck were the top performers, as the former made 11 tackles and the latter made seven tackles and forced three turnovers.
Tighthead prop Brian Mujati was solid in the Northampton Saints’ 42-14 thrashing of the Worcester Warriors. Both Saracens and Northampton will feature in the semi-finals next weekend, against the Leicester Tigers and Harlequins respectively (both 12 May).
Director of rugby Gary Gold ended his short tenure at the Newcastle Falcons with a 14-10 comeback win over lock Marco Wentzel’s London Wasps. The Falcons broke down a 10-point half-time deficit for the victory, but it wasn’t enough to avoid relegation.
In the Pro12, wing DTH van der Merwe scored his second try in his second season appearance for the Glasgow Warriors. The score gave the Scotland club a 23-3 win over Connacht at Firhill Stadium and sealed their semi-final place.
Props Wian du Preez and BJ Botha powered Munster to a 36-8 win over No 8 Robbie Diack’s Ulster. Munster also make the play-offs with the win over a weakened Ulster outfit, who rested scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, lock and captain Johann Muller, fullback Stefan Terblanche and loose forward Pedrie Wannenburg ahead of the European Cup final on 19 May.
Wing Hanno Dirksen scored the deciding try in the Ospreys’ 18-11 win over flyhalf Naas Olivier and lock Quintin Geldenhuys’s Aironi.
In the semi-finals, Munster will take on Ospreys in Swansea (11 May) and Glasgow will face hooker Richardt Strauss and prop Heinke van der Merwe’s Leinster in Dublin (12 May).