GARETH DUNCAN looks at the Saffas who impressed in the leagues around the world over the weekend.
In the Japanese Top League last season, the Steelers failed to qualify for the semi-finals as they finished sixth on the log. Sungoliath cruised to the top of the standings (thanks mainly to the contributions of scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, lock Danie Rossouw and flank George Smith), winning 12 of their 13 fixtures and easing to play-off triumphs on their home ground.
Over the weekend, outside centre Jaque Fourie and flyhalf Peter Grant (pictured) helped the Steelers break down a 19-13 half-time deficit to beat the Red Hurricanes 37-29.
Fourie continued his great try-scoring form, dotting down twice in the second stanza to complete the comeback victory. Fourie has now scored nine tries in seven appearances. Grant starred with the boot, kicking 17 points. The Stormers flyhalf slotted all seven of his goal attempts (four conversions and three penalties).
Du Preez came off the bench for Sungoliath and guided his team to a 34-20 win over the Wild Knights, who boasted New Zealand flyhalf Mike Delany and All Blacks inside centre Sonny Bill Williams in their line-up. The two clubs were deadlocked 13-13 at the break.
Inside centre Wynand Olivier helped the Black Rams to a hat-trick of league victories as they downed replacement lock Albert van den Berg’s Eagles 35-17.
In the second round of the European Cup, Saffa-laden Saracens beat lock Francois van der Merwe, flank Bernard le Roux and No 8 Jacques Cronje’s Racing Metro 30-13 in Brussels.
The English club started inside centre Brad Barritt, scrumhalf Neil de Kock, hooker Schalk Brits, tighthead prop Matt Stevens and lock Mouritz Botha, while hooker John Smit and lock Alistair Hargreaves came off the bench. Brits and Barritt were the star performers, gaining 56m and 36m with ball in hand respectively and forcing five turnovers between them.
Scrumhalf Rory Kockott, flank Antonie Claassen and reserve No 8 Pedrie Wannenburg helped Castres to a 21-16 win over tighthead prop Brian Mujati and replacement No 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze’s Northampton Saints at the Stade Ernest Wallon.
Claassen scored the telling try in the second half, while Kockott also slotted a penalty. Mujati was given a yellow card in the first half for bringing down a rolling maul.
Scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar and lock Johann Muller spearheaded Ulster’s 19-3 victory over flank Josh Strauss’s Glasgow at Scotstoun Stadium. Muller was especially effective in the lineout battle. Ulster remain the only unbeaten club in Europe.
Lock Bakkies Botha put in a strong defensive effort in Toulon’s 22-14 win over No 8 Andries Pretorius’ Cardiff Blues, while tighthead prop BJ Botha fronted Munster’s 33-0 win over replacement prop WP Nel’s Edinburgh.
Zebre No 8 Dries van Schalwyk scored a try in his club’s 38-17 loss to reserve prop Eugene van Staden’s Biarritz. Lock Quintin Geldenhuys also ran out for the losers.
In the European Challenge Cup, Springbok flank Francois Louw was a standout performer in Bath’s crucial Pool 4 27-22 win over Agen. The blindside flank scored the bonus-point and match-winning try at the death, while he also made seven tackles and forced two turnovers. Scrumhalf Michael Claassens also crossed the chalk for the victors.
Inside centre Gavin Hume grabbed a brace in Perpignan’s 90-12 drubbing of Spanish outift Bizkaia Gernika.
Fullback Errie Claassens scored a try for the Worcester Warriors during their 90-3 thrashing of fullback Stefan Basson’s Rovigo.
London Wasps No 8 Ashley Johnson scored his first try for the club as they thrashed flank Meyer Swanepoel’s Mogliano 59-12 at the Stadio Comunale di Mogliano Veneto.