Who’s hot and who’s not: Premiership epic, quarter-final winners, Springbok shines while another struggles

Adam Kyriacou
Northampton were crowned Premiership champions while it was a bad night for Manie Libbok in the URC.

Northampton were crowned Premiership champions while it was a bad night for Manie Libbok in the URC.

It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after the weekend.


Saints and 14-man Bath: Congratulations to Premiership champions Northampton Saints after they claimed a 25-21 victory over Bath at Twickenham. However, we feel Bath deserve a tip of the hat too after they fronted up for over an hour with 14 players, this after Beno Obano was shown a red card by referee Christophe Ridley. Incredibly, Bath grew stronger and stronger as the gripping fixture progressed and were hugely unfortunate not to come out on top on the day. That honour was Northampton’s as the table toppers got over the line with their noses in front thanks to a late Alex Mitchell try. It was a superb 80 minutes in front of a packed out stadium as the curtain came down on 2023/24.

URC semi-finalists: All four home teams secured a safe passage to the United Rugby Championship semi-finals over the past weekend as Munster, the Bulls, Leinster and Glasgow Warriors overcame the Ospreys, Benetton, Ulster and the Stormers respectively. Jack Crowley was solid off the tee as he steered the reigning champions past the Welsh region on Friday night with a 13-point haul before the other three teams got the job done on Saturday. We therefore have Munster v Glasgow Warriors and Bulls v Leinster showdowns to look forward to this week.

Likewise Super Rugby: As with the United Rugby Championship, it was a similar story in Super Rugby Pacific as the four hosting outfits progressed. Into the last four go the Chiefs, Hurricanes, Blues and Brumbies as the Reds, Rebels, Fijian Drua and Highlanders were all well beaten. The aforementioned quartet have no doubt been the best teams in the 2024 competition so it’s only fitting they feature this weekend.

Thomas du Toit shines: What a performance. What a season from the Bath tighthead prop. Du Toit has impressed all campaign with his try-scoring exploits being backed up by strong scrummaging and breakdown work of the highest order. Those traits were in evidence again over the weekend at Twickenham as he crossed for his side’s first try, impressed at scrum time and was a threat at the ruck. A man mountain of a specimen who finishes with eight tries in the Premiership season. Surely the Springboks need to utilise him during this Test campaign.

Bath player ratings: ‘Sublime’ Springbok produces ‘all-time’ shift as red card proves costly in Premiership final

Josh Hathaway called up: Speaking of international rugby and there was surprise call-up to the Wales squad for young Gloucester wing Hathaway last Monday. The 20-year-old Aberystwyth-born player, who can also play full-back, has represented Wales and England at U20 level, but it seems Wales head coach Warren Gatland was keen to avoid another Immanuel Feyi-Waboso episode whereby Hathaway slips through their grasp and into England’s. Gatland’s clearly a fan of the back, saying he has a “lot of potential”, so an exciting summer awaits.

Fitting end for Sam Whitelock: The All Blacks legend bowed out in fine style after scoring a try with the final act of his career. Whitelock, who announced his retirement in April, touched down in the last minute of Pau’s 36-24 triumph over Perpignan in the Top 14. It was a fitting way to end for the great New Zealander, who won two Rugby World Cups and is currently the country’s record cap holder after surpassing Richie McCaw’s tally. One of the sport’s greats.


George Ford setback: In a blow for both the player and his country, Ford has been ruled out of England’s upcoming games against Japan and New Zealand because of an Achilles injury. The news leaves the Red Rose without their starting fly-half, who has been in excellent form for Sale Sharks this season. Head coach Steve Borthwick is therefore minus considerable experience that would have been invaluable against the All Blacks in that two-Test series as the number 10 jersey becomes a shoot-out between the Smiths, Harlequins’ Marcus and Saints’ Fin.

Manie Libbok’s boot: Zero from four attempts at goal does not make for pretty reading for the fly-half as the Stormers’ URC campaign was brought to an abrupt halt against Glasgow Warriors. Granted, the conditions at Scotstoun weren’t ideal for place kicking – or any kicking for that matter – but George Horne did manage to knock over his efforts as the hosts ran out 27-10 winners thanks to two late converted scores. Libbok’s troubles off the tee continue to be an issue for the player and it’s something that needs ironing out if he is to become a Bok regular.

One-sided quarters: This is regarding the Super Rugby Pacific last-eight games, which were not the contests neutrals would have hoped for on Friday and Saturday. The Chiefs’ meeting with the Reds was over as a contest after a quarter of the game as they raced out of the blocks, while on Saturday the Hurricanes blew the Melbourne Rebels away, as expected, before the Blues and Brumbies cantered to the semi-finals. At least this weekend’s fixtures – the Blues v Brumbies and Hurricanes v Chiefs – are set to be blockbuster battles that could go either way.

Beno Obano’s mistake: It is always cruel to criticise a player when he is no doubt suffering but there were no arguments over the red card decision in the Premiership final. The loosehead cut a sorry figure on the bench and it was pleasing to see team-mates swiftly offer encouraging words as the sending off sunk in. Obano’s team-mates did him proud though, despite the result, and no doubt the prop has been picked up by what is clearly a special group at Bath. He will be back, of that there is no doubt, but it may be after England’s mid-year series as a suspension awaits.

Qatar deal: Ultimately, money talks, and unfortunately in this case it comes at the expense of basic human decency. It has been reported that the Middle Eastern nation is getting closer to securing a deal to host the Nations Championship ‘finals series’. It would be worth around £800m, which would be significant for the Six Nations and SANZAAR governing bodies. However, is the sport really going to sell its soul to a country whose human rights abuses ‘persist’, according to Amnesty International? We hope not, but it disappointingly feels inevitable.

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