GARETH DUNCAN looks at the Saffas who impressed in the leagues around the world over the weekend.
Scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar didn’t have a great record with the boot during the Springboks’ 31-8 Rugby Championship victory over the Wallabies in Pretoria. After taking over the goal-kicking duties from debutant Johan Goosen, he only converted three of his seven attempts.
However, Pienaar has shown great accuracy in recent weeks in Europe – in general play and from the kicking tee.
He enjoyed a flawless display in Ulster’s 46-19 win over Newport Gwent Dragons a fortnight ago, slotting seven from seven (five conversions and two penalties). He also scored a try to take his individual tally to 21 points.
Against tighthead prop WP Nel and lock Izak van der Westhuizen’s Edinburgh on Friday, Pienaar knocked over all six of his conversions and scored his third try in four weeks to help the Northern Irish club to a 45-20 victory at Ravenhill. The 28-year-old also created a try for wing Craig Gilroy with a clever box kick into space.
Flank Robbie Diack came off the bench in the second half for the winners.
Ulster are still the only undefeated side in the all premier competitions in the northern hemisphere, enjoying a nine-match winning streak in the Pro12 and the European Cup.
Pienaar is expected to start for the Boks at scrumhalf over the next three weeks during their end-of-year tour. His experience in the European conditions will serve the team well, especially if he’s needed to kick at goal.
In other results, former Stormers and WP wing Danie Poolman made his starting debut for Connacht at outside centre and delivered an impressive performance in their 18-3 win over tighthead prop Bees Roux and lock Corniel van Zyl’s Treviso at Galway Sports Ground. Poolman scored a try in the first half, to help his club lead 13-0 at the break.
No 8 Josh Strauss was a strong performer in the Glasgow Warriors’ 37-6 win over wing Tonderai Chavhanga’s Newport Gwent Dragons.
In the French Top 14, scrumhalf Rory Kockott was again a match-winner for Castres as they beat Perpignan 38-36 at the Stade Pierre Antoine. Kockott scored a try and kicked two conversions and six penalties to edge his team to victory. This included a 79-minute penalty.
Fullback Scott Spedding scored a try in Bayonne’s 22-11 triumph over scrumhalf Heini Adams’ Bordeaux. Inside centre Sam Gerber and lock Dewald Senekal played for the victors.
Lock Bakkies Botha and loose forward Joe van Niekerk formed part of a strong forwards showing to help Toulon to a 24-19 win over reserve lock Anton van Zyl’s Stade Francais. The victors’ ascendancy up front set the platform for flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson to kick eight penalties.
Loosehead prop Gurthro Steenkamp came off the bench to help Toulouse to a 32-13 win over flank Jacques Cronje and lock Francois van der Merwe’s Racing Metro. Van der Merwe scored a try for the losers during the first half.
In the English Premiership, Saffa-laden Saracens edged flank Ashley Johnson and lock Marco Wentzel’s London Wasps 29-24 at Vicarage Road. Former Sharks lock Alistair Hargreaves scored a try for the victors. Loosehead prop Matt Stevens, hooker Schalk Brits, No 8 Ernst Joubert, reserve hooker John Smit, replacement prop Petrus du Plessis and substitute scrumhalf Neil de Kock also featured for the Watford club.