Saffas shine in Japan

GARETH DUNCAN looks at the Saffas who impressed in the leagues around the world over the weekend.

While South African players can be found in all of the top domestic competitions in Europe, the Japanese club scene has proven to be the hot spot for some in recent years. Even All Blacks sensation Sonny Bill Williams was lured to the Far East before he makes a return to rugby league in 2013.

And why not? You still get the lucrative contracts you’d find up north, the weather is warmer and you play half the amount of matches because of the foreign player rule that only allows three internationals on the field at a time.

The overall strength of the English Premiership, French Top 14 and Pro12 is superior to that of the Japanese Top League, but several South Africans have seen the opportunity to play in Asia as a perfect breakaway from the usual hectic schedule (the big pay packet is also a convincing motivator).

The Saffas plying their trade in Asia are making a major impact for their respective teams.

The likes of scrumhalf Fourie du Preez (Suntory Sungoliath), centre Jaque Fourie (Kobe Steelers) and flyhalf Peter Grant (Kobe Steelers) have all received Man of the Match awards for their impressive performances during the opening four rounds of the tournament.

Over the weekend, lock Danie Rossouw (pictured right) scored the bonus-point try in defending champions Suntory’s 42-17 victory over second-rower Albert van den Berg’s Canon Eagles. From the a quick penalty tap, the former Bulls man powered over for a smart team try.

Du Preez was rested for this game as a rotational policy sees the Springbok scrumhalf play every second week. Suntory hold top stop in the standings.

Grant kicked 13 points and Fourie scored a try in Kobe Steelers’ 23-23 draw against Toyota Verblitz. The Steelers are one of four unbeaten teams in the Top League.

In the France, Agen flyhalf Conrad Barnard played a match-winning role for his team as he kicked 23 points (a conversion and seven penalties) in their 28-16 win over flank Sebastian de Chaves, locks Berend Botha and Philip Liebenberg and reserve hooker Pieter Grobler’s Mont-de-Marsan. Fullback Greg Goosen and lock Ross Skeate also started for the victors.

Lock Bakkies Botha and reserve loose forward Joe van Niekerk featured in Toulon’s sixth straight win as they downed flank Pedrie Wannenburg, reserve prop Michael Coetzee and scrumhalf Rory Kockott’s Castres 33-12. Kockott slotted four penalties for his team.

Hooker Erasmus Jansen van Vuuren dotted down in Montpellier’s 23-15 away win over scrumhalf Heini Adams’s Bordeaux. Lock Drikus Hancke also started for the visitors.

Grenoble prop Albertus Buckle scored a try in his club’s 44-20 loss to Clermont. Outside centre Ronnie Cooke also started for the losers.

No 8 Jacques Cronje, flank Bernard le Roux and lock Francois van der Merwe helped Racing Metro to back-to-back wins as they edged loosehead prop Wikus Blaauw’s Biarritz.

In the Pro12, wing Hanno Dirsken scored a telling try for Ospreys as they handed lock George Earle’s Scarlets a 23-16 defeat. It was the log leader’s first loss of the campaign.

Former Cheetahs tighthead prop WP Nel came off the bench and crossed the chalk for Edinburgh, but the Scottish club still lost 22-16 to reserve prop Heinke van der Merwe’s Leinster.

Props BJ Botha and Wian du Preez contributed to Munster’s 33-13 win over the Newport Gwent Dragons.

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