Overseas wrap: Africa shines
With a bumper weekend of European rugby, several South Africans were plying their trade in the Heineken and Challenge Cups, as well as a PRO12 derby.
Comeback king, Juan Smith, did not make as big an impression upon Munster in Sunday's semi-final as he had done against their Irish rivals Leinster in the previous round, but barring the odd silly knock-on the Springbok can be satisfied with his display in a fearsome breakdown tussle.
Danie Rossouw also showed up well in the loose for Toulon, but was out of sorts in the lineout and spilled the ball with a glorious scoring opportunity beckoning. Speedster Bryan Habana has had his time in the south of France blighted by hamstring injuries, and he was taken off early in the second-half on Sunday. Still, his pace and direct running caused Munster problems, with only a super James Downey tap-tackle preventing Habana's scything midfield break yielding more than field position. He did offer other line-breaks that got the competition holders on the front foot.
Michael Claassens was a second-half replacement and put in a commanding performance around the base of the ruck as Toulon saw out the victory.
For Munster, CJ Stander impressed in the contact area, and though BJ Botha was up against it at scrum-time, his side of the set-piece largely held its own.
So nothing too special to report from Marseille, but Africans were the stars of the show a day earlier as Saracens demolished Clermont at Twickenham. Schalk Brits was at his best in the loose, showcasing the full extent of his footballing ability and tremendous running speed and tenacity in defence, while Namibian flanker and man-of-the-match Jacques Burger was a ferocious tackle machine the Frenchmen couldn't handle. Neil De Kock also injected some pace and fluidity at scrum-half before being replaced in what looked like a pre-planned move from Sarries on 50 minutes.
In the PRO12, South African representation was high as Glasgow Warriors eased past Alan Solomons' inconsistent Edinburgh side. "Solly"'s pre-season vow to alter Edinburgh's free-spirited but defensively naive approach has been partially successful, with a decent improvement upon last season's shambles. But despite the all-action Cornell du Preez, Zimbabwean-born Dave Denton and Botswana-born Roddy Grant in their back-row, the side's missed tackles and slack defence continue to prove their downfall as Glasgow won the derby game and with it the two-legged 1872 Cup.
Tighthead prop Willem Nel notched yet another try on Saturday in a forward pack that included Du Preez and lock Izak van der Westhuizen - who was sin-binned - while Carl Bezuidenhout and Andries Strauss had a mixed day at the office at ten and inside centre respectively.
For the Warriors, Josh Strauss, now committed to representing Scotland internationally, was typically abrasive and dynamic with ball in hand.
Elsewhere over the weekend, the Challenge Cup saw Ashley Johnson's Wasps lose 24-18 to Bath in the semi-final, as Francois Louw watched his team-mates from the sideline due to injury. Johnson scored with 14 minutes left to narrow matters to the aforementioned scoreline but Bath held on.