Bad day at the office for Luke
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Luke Watson (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – A bad day at the office for Luke Watson-led Bath, but all smiles for another Springbok in Northampton’s tighthead prop Brian Mujati.
That was perhaps the most noteworthy South African angle to the weekend’s activity in the English Premiership.
The eagerly-awaited, top-of-table clash between unbeaten sides Northampton and Bath at Franklin’s Gardens ended in a surprisingly emphatic 31-10 win for the home side on Friday night.
They managed the four-try bonus point as well, in a performance reportedly marked by quick scrum ball – presumably a good reflection on former Bok and Stormers tighthead prop Brian Mujati, who played the full 80 minutes for Northants.
Watson’s troops, missing a few regulars through injury, slipped to third on the table after three rounds of matches.
Moving up into second were London Irish, who beat Gloucester 23-16 with another former Bok and Newlands-based No 3, Faan Rautenbach, having his customary 50-odd minutes for the winning outfit.
The imposing 132-kg Rautenbach, now 34 and sometimes boasting more facial hair than French forward icon Sebastien Chabal, played the last of 14 Tests for South Africa against the All Blacks in 2004.
Also making a bit of progress, and easing into fourth place on eight points – five behind the leaders – were the heavily South African-flavoured Saracens.
Sarries ousted strugglers Leeds 26-14 in soggy conditions away from home, with no fewer than nine South Africans in the starting line-up.
“Our set-piece won it for us,” director of rugby Brendan Venter said afterwards.
Interestingly, run-around hooker Schalk Brits, who was one of the toasts of the Premiership last season, started on the bench as the beefier Ethienne Reynecke, a former Lions No 2, got a run-on appearance.
But Brits did get on the score-sheet with a late try, former Blue Bulls idol Derick Hougaard banging over 16 points with the boot.
Sarries’ loose trio was made up entirely of southern African expats – Ernst Joubert (ex-Lions), Justin Melck (ex-Stormers/WP) and the Nambian international and former Bulls hard man Jacques Burger.