South Africans in Europe’s showcase
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: With a few days to go to the European Champions Cup quarterfinals, Rugby365 take a look at a few key South African players in action this weekend.
After a long and gruelling round-robin stage only eight teams remain.
The first quarterfinal sees two-time Champions Cup winners Munster travel to Scotland to take on Edinburgh.
The two-time winners Munster certainly don’t have a scarcity of South African staff. The most prominent figure is head coach Johann Van Graan, who joined Munster in 2017.
On-field, however, a name that truly stands out is Christiaan Stander. Born in South Africa, the Ireland international produces a noteworthy performance whenever he takes the field. The loose forwards might have had a below-par Six Nations campaign. However, his domestic form has been much better. Thus far, Stander has made 94 tackle and 88 caries during his he played 480 minutes in the Champions Cup.
For Edinburgh, Pierre Schoeman has certainly become a key figure for the club, despite having played less than 250 minutes of Champions Cup rugby. The former Bulls prop, who is very familiar with Van Graan and Chris Cloete, already revealed that it will certainly be a physical contest with the two teams’ big packs.
The 2016 and 2017 winners Saracens also boast plenty of South African flair on their roster. From the likes of Vincent Koch to Renaldo Botha.
However, the one to watch will be Springbok veteran Schalk Burger. Playing in his last season for the Premiership side, Burger would want to return to South African on a high note.
Former Stormers prop Oliver Kebble is another South African who wants to stamp his authority on this encounter. The 26-year-old prop, who joined Glasgow Warriors in 2017, has had a very successful Champions Cup season – having played 373 minutes, made 52 tackles and scored a try.
The 1999 winners Ulster will face the reigning champions Leinster in the third quarterfinal. Ulster have Springbok Marcell Coetzee in their arsenal.
Coetzee, who was sidelined for two months, returned to action last weekend during his side’s 33-19 Pro14 win over the Kings. The loose forward picked up where he left off and even got his name on the score sheet. However, this week will be a different challenge when the team visit Leinster.
In the all-French affair, Bernard Le Roux could be in action for Racing 92. Born in South Africa, the flank left his native country in 2009 and accumulated 32 Test caps for France. The 29-year-old is certainly one to look out, having played just less than 300 minutes of Champions Cup rugby and having made 118 metres.
Racing will host Top14 rivals Toulouse, who have the dynamic Cheslin Kolbe to instigate their attack – having beaten the most defenders (41) in the pool stages. The Springbok wing has certainly been one of Toulouse’s star performance – not only during the Champions Cup but during the Top 14 as well.
By Leezil Hendricks