GARETH DUNCAN looks at the Saffas who impressed in the leagues around the world over the weekend.
Toulon have reached their first French Top 14 final since 1992, when they beat Biarritz 19-14 for their third domestic title. They beat reserve prop Daniel Kotze’s Clermont 15-12 in a rain-affected semi-final at the Stade Municipal on Sunday.
English flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson was the star for the victors as he slotted all 15 points via the kicking tee. Captain and flank Joe van Niekerk and lock Bakkies Bothaformed part of a strong forwards showing that helped the team to secure the important win.
Botha almost undid all his fellow heavies’ hard work when he conceded a late penalty at a ruck. But Clermont scrumhalf Morgan Parra missed the resulting goal attempt and Toulon held on to triumph.
In the other semi-final, reserve prop Gurthro Steenkamp featured in Toulouse’s 24-15 win over replacement scrumhalf Rory Kockott’s Castres.
Steenkamp came off the bench at the start of the second half. He was used as a ball-carrier on five occasions and made three tackles. Kockott was called off the wood in the 56th minute, when his team was still trailing 18-15. But Castres’ fight fizzled in the final quarter, with Toulouse inside centre Luke McAllister converting two penalties to secure victory. This will be the defending champions’ sixth Top 14 final appearance since 2001.
Toulon and Toulouse will battle in the title decider at the Stade de France this Saturday.
In Super Rugby, Hurricanes prop Reggie Goodes came off the bench and contributed to a strong defensive display in the final quarter. He made seven tackles as the Wellington franchise downed scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius’s Waratahs 33-12 in Sydney.