Planet Rugby

Preview: Clermont v Castres

24th May 2013 09:01

Share:

Clermont s French flanker Julien Bonnaire is tackled v Castres

David v Goliath: Do Castres have a hope?

Castres have the unenviable task of facing a Clermont side with a point to prove in the second Top 14 semi-final at Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes on Saturday.

Despite being left devastated by their narrow loss to Toulon in the European Cup Final, les Jaunards will start as hot favourites - which isn't necessarily a good thing.

Top of the standings at the end of the regular season, the 2010 French champions have featured in the last four every year since 2007, but have lost their last two semi-finals.

Indeed, impressive as Clermont's season has been, they have a nasty habit of getting it wrong when it matters most. Their record of ten lost French finals is unlikely to ever be eclipsed. And while Castres couldn't possibly aspire to competing with l'ASM over the course of a 26-game regular season, they certainly have the arms to do so over 80 minutes, as they showed last October when they became just the second team to beat Clermont in the first 11 games of the season.

Yes, Castres coaches Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers - who will leave for the Racing-Metro next season - will tell their players all the pressure is on Clermont.

CO have made the play-offs every season since the coaching duo's arrival four years ago but have never been able to get past the semi-finals.

On paper Clermont are in a different class and the stats suggest they should romp to a berth in the final at the Stade de France but much will depend on how they have digested that heartbreaking defeat in Dublin.

If Castres can hang on until the final quarter, just do enough to plant a seed of doubt in the minds of the Clermont players, then anything is possible.

Castres are in good form having cruised past Montpellier in impressive fashion in their play-off. Their strength lies in a no-frills approach and a very settled team. If they can keep Clermont out, they have a number of kicking options to keep the scoreboard ticking.

However, if Clermont can get on the scoreboard early and boost their confidence, it could be one-way traffic as few teams can live with Vern Cotter's side when they have their tails up. It's Clermont's semi-final to lose.

Despite the hype, Clermont flanker Julien Bonnaire insists that his team would not be underestimating Castres.

"They're not there by chance," said the ex-France international said.

"They're a complete team. But we're capable of beating whoever."

Castres have been boosted by the return from injury of three key players, French international prop Yannick Forestier, Samoan lock Joe Tekori and centre Romain Cabannes.

Meanwhile, Clermont are sweating over the fitness of a seven players. Hookers Ti'i Paulo and Benjamin Kayser both have calf injuries. Gerhard Vosloo (knee), Jamie Cudmore (hand), Wesley Fofana (foot) and Morgan Parra (thigh) all missed training at the start of the week.

Players to watch:

For Clermont: Mr. Clermont, Aurélien Rougerie made a stunning comeback from injury last week, creating both of his team's tries. Beyond his attacking role in midfield, the skipper will have a vital job in keeping his side focussed, especially if the scores are close in the dying minutes and those old demons start to emerge.

For Castres: Castres will look to scrum-half Rory Kockott, who is both their top points and try scorer this year to lead the attack. The South African has become a key presence in the side, featuring in 32 games this season, more than any other player.

Head-to-head: The battle between the full-backs could be interesting. Lee Byrne is a consistent performer and solid as they come under the high ball while Brice Dulin is one of the brightest rising talents in France. An untimely injury halted a promising start to his Test career, and up against a veteran international, he'll be given a chance to show off his skills.

Previous results:
05/10/2012: Castres won 16-13 in Castres
09/03/2013: Clermont won 37-10 in Clermont

Prediction: This clash has been billed as a contest between David and Goliath. We'll go with the giant. Clermont by ten points!

The teams:

Clermont: 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Aurélien Rougerie (c), 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Naipolioni Nalaga, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Damien Chouly, 7 Julien Bardy, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Loïc Jacquet, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Raphael Chaume.
Replacements:16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Thomas Domingo, 18 Nathan Hines, 19 Alexandre Lapandry, 20 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 21 Brock James, 22 Benson Stanley, 23 Daniel Kotze.

Castres: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Romain Martial, 13 Romain Cabannes, 12 Seremaia Baï, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Remi Talès, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Antonie Claassen, 7 Yannick Caballero, 6 Ibrahim Diarra, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Karena Wihongi, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau.
Replacements: 16 Mathieu Bonello, 17 Yannick Forestier, 18 Joe Tekori, 19 Janie Bornman, 20 Romain Teulet, 21 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22 Paul Bonnefond, 23 Mihaïta Lazar.

Date: Saturday, May 25
Venue: Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes
Kick-off: 16.30 (14.30 GMT)
Weather: 15°C. Partly Cloudy
Referee: Christophe Berdos
Assistant referees: Patrick Péchambert and Sébastien Minery

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 23
Saracens vs NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Preview
London Welsh vs Leicester TigersLondon Welsh vs Leicester Tigers Preview
Friday , November 28
Bath vs Harlequins19:45
Saturday , November 29
Leicester Tigers vs Wasps15:00
Exeter vs Saracens16:30
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
International Match
Sunday , November 23
Georgia vs JapanGeorgia vs Japan Preview
Saturday , November 29
Wales vs South Africa14:30
England vs Australia14:30
More International Match fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Sunday , November 23
Treviso vs LeinsterTreviso vs Leinster Preview
Edinburgh vs Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Preview
Friday , November 28
Munster vs Ulster19:35
Cardiff Blues vs Treviso19:35
Saturday , November 29
Zebre vs Edinburgh15:00
Leinster vs Ospreys17:15
Connacht vs Scarlets19:30
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 29
Oyonnax vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Lyon vs Montpellier18:00
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:00
Castres vs Racing Metro Paris18:00
Toulon vs Clermont Auvergne18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 22
London Irish 23 - 33 BathLondon Irish vs Bath Report
Exeter 31 - 15 WaspsExeter vs Wasps Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Italy 6 - 22 South AfricaItaly vs South Africa Report
Ireland 26 - 23 AustraliaIreland vs Australia Report
England 28 - 9 SamoaEngland vs Samoa Report
Wales 16 - 34 New ZealandWales vs New Zealand Report
Romania 18 - 9 CanadaRomania vs Canada Report
Scotland 37 - 12 TongaScotland vs Tonga Report
France 13 - 18 ArgentinaFrance vs Argentina Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 21
Harlequins 12 - 16 Sale SharksHarlequins vs Sale Sharks Report
Newcastle Falcons 20 - 10 GloucesterNewcastle Falcons vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Fiji 20 - 14 USAFiji vs USA Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Dragons 12 - 38 MunsterDragons vs Munster Report
Ulster 25 - 16 OspreysUlster vs Ospreys Report
Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow WarriorsScarlets vs Glasgow Warriors Report
Connacht 43 - 3 ZebreConnacht vs Zebre Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 16
Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 SaracensLeicester Tigers vs Saracens Report
Wasps 71 - 7 London WelshWasps vs London Welsh Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Ireland 49 - 7 GeorgiaIreland vs Georgia Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 15
Sale Sharks 36 - 8 London IrishSale Sharks vs London Irish Report
Bath 23 - 14 Newcastle FalconsBath vs Newcastle Falcons Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Romania 13 - 18 JapanRomania vs Japan Report
France 29 - 26 AustraliaFrance vs Australia Report
Scotland 16 - 24 New ZealandScotland vs New Zealand Report
England 28 - 31 South AfricaEngland vs South Africa Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Exeter828
2Bath828
3Northampton726
4Saracens724
5Wasps820