Saturday 29 May 2010 will be remembered, not only for the historical Super14 Soweto final, but also the French Top 14 final between Perpignan vs Clermont Auvergne, Stade de France, Paris
Perpignan and Clermont will go head to head in a re-match of the 2009 final that Perpignan won 22-13, claiming their first French title in over 50 years.
The 2010 final will be Clermont’s 4th consecutive Top 14 Final and 11th in the history of the tournament. Three unsuccessful attempts in three years, and they will be fired up to lift the prized Bouclier de Brennus for the first time.
Standing firmly in their way, is seven time and also defending champion Perpignan. They have however never defended that title successfully. That should be enough motivation.
Perpignan topped the table at the end of the season and went on to beat Toulouse 21-13 in a semi-final dominated by full-back Jerome Porical’s kicking boot. Porical slotted seven penalties from all over the field to squash any hope Toulouse had of reclaiming the title they held in 2008.
Clermont had a slightly tougher road to the final. Ending third on the table meant they had to play Racing Metro in one of the two quarter-finals. Clermont beat a very determined Racing Metro side 21-17. Clermont continued their impressive form a week later, to withstand a kicking onslaught by Toulon’s Johnny Wilkinson, eventually coming out top with a nail-biting 35 -29 victory and booking their spot in yet another final.
The 80’000 seater Stade de France in Paris will be packed to capacity, with a sea of red and yellow supporters on opposite sides of the park. They will be treated to a Clermont onslaught led by the mid-field paring of former Springbok Marius Joubert and French international Aurelien Rougerie. On the other side they will have to contend with the very physical Perpignan forwards. Clermont will also have to be on their best behaviour, as any penalty inside their own half, will most likely result in three points through the boot of Perpignan’s Jerome Porical.
Perpignan boasts the best defensive record this season, only conceding 24 tries, but also showing their attacking ability by scoring 59 tries.
Clermont has been the best attacking team this season, racking up 64 tries. They only conceded 32 tries.
Perpignan: Forwards: Olivier Mas, Kisi Pulu, Jérôme Schuster, Perry Freshwater, Guilhem Guirado, Ovidiu Tincu, Robins Tchale-Watchou, Guillaume Vilaceca, Rimas Alvarez-Kairélis, Henry Tuilagi, Jean-Pierre Perez, Damien Chouly, Marius Tonita, Olivier Olibeau
Backs: Nicolas Durand, David Mélé, Florian Cazenave, Gavin Hume, Maxime Mermoz, David Marty, Adrien Planté, Jean-Philippe Grandclaude, Farid Sid, Jérôme Porical, Philip Burger, Nicolas Laharrague
Clermont Auvergne: Forwards: Alexandre Audebert , Julien Bonnaire , Benoit Cabello , Jamie Cudmore , Vincent Debaty, Thomas Domingo , Alexander Lapandry, Mario Ledesma , Julien Pierre , Thibaut Privat, Martin Scelzo , Elvis Vermeulen , Davit Zirakashvili
Backs: Gonzalo Canale , Anthony Floch , Brock James , Marius Joubert , Tasesa Lavea, Julien Malzieu , Napolioni Nalaga, Morgan Parra , Aurelien Rougerie , Kevin Senio , Gavin Williams
Kick-off is at 20h45 on Saturday.
Unfortunately this game will not be covered by South African television. We will however keep you updated on Rugby15.co.za with Live Score updates of the game.
Rugby15 predicts a Perpignan win by no more than 5 points.
We had the pleasure of talking to Perpignan speedster Philip Burger, a former Cheetahs and Springbok Sevens player about his second Top14 Final
Is the team motivated and ready to defend their Top14 title?
Yes, the guys are really motivated to win their second title. Never, in the history of the tournament have we successfully defended our title, and the guys are using that as motivation. We are actually going in as favorites this year and that might count against us. But the guys are definitely ready. Some injury concerns at the moment, but nothing major.
What has been Perpignan’s strong points this season?
Definitely our defence. We have conceded a lot less tries than the other teams. We also play a very balanced game, don’t take too many chances and rather kick for territory than throw the ball wide.
How would you describe the rugby supporters in France?
The French are totally crazy when it comes to their rugby. It is not strange to see thousands of supporters getting on buses and traveling across the country to support their team. Last year we had a massive snow storm, and hundreds of fans came down to the stadium with shovels to clear the field so that we could play that Saturday.
We’ve heard that this is your 5th rugby final in a row?
It is really great. I played three finals with the Cheetahs before moving over to France and now it’s my second consecutive final with Perpignan. I would love to follow in my dad’s* footsteps and also win 5 finals. He won 5 Currie Cup titles with the Northern Transvaal.
**Thys Burger is a former Springbok and Northern Transvaal player. He played 75 games for Northern Transvaal during the 70’s and 80’s
Even though it was in the Heineken Cup, some people branded it as one of the tries of the season. Are the French still talking about your great try* against Munster?
It was actually so long ago but yes, it’s still fresh in my mind. It was one of my first games back after breaking my wrist. During that time I focused most of my training on speed and power.
After taking the ball from the air the gaps just opened up in front of me. I backed myself and my speed got me around the defenders on the outside. In the end it was very frustrating that we lost that game. We out scored Munster by three tries to zero and lost in the final few minutes.
**You can view Philip’s try here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFlhyP9rukI
Your thoughts and prediction for the Super 14 final in Soweto?
My head tells me the Bulls will win, but in my heart I believe that the Stormers will have enough to pull it through. Rassie, Allister and the guys worked really hard to get where they are.
Stormers to win it by no more than 6 points.
We also had the pleasure of talking to former Springbok, Stormers and Cheetahs player
Marius Joubert ahead of his first Top14 Final for Clermont.
What is the mood like in the Clermont camp? Taking into consideration that this is the 4th consecutive final and no win yet for Clermont. How fired up are the guys to claim their first ever French title?
The guys are really confident ahead of the final. We are a very settled team, more mature than last season and definitely have the experience. It would mean so much for the team and also for the Clermont supporters if we can win our first title. The town is 100% behind us.
What has been Clermont’s strong points this season?
I would say our tight five worked really hard this season. They’ve always put the phases together to put the backs on the front foot. That gave us a lot of scoring opportunities. We also have two coaches from the Southern Hemisphere, which means we play a more expansive game than the other teams. That is reflected in the amount of tries we scored this season.
How would you describe the rugby supporters in France?
They definitely love the game. And what makes it nice, is that all the places are so close together. So the stadiums are always full, even for the smaller teams. Unlike the Super 14 we are playing the final on neutral ground. That means support is split equally for both teams. It will be a sea of red on the one side, and a sea of yellow on the other.
You missed last year’s final due to injury. Are you looking forward to your first Top14 final?
It was a big disappointment last year, but I promised myself that I would do everything in my ability to play in the final the next year. I am looking forward to match. I am also very confident that we can win this.
Your thoughts on the Super 14 final? A Prediction perhaps?
After spending lots of time down in Stormers territory I would really like for the Stormers to take it, but the Bulls are a very settled team and very difficult to beat with home ground advantage. In the end I think the Bulls will win by about 5 points.
[Article by James Loretz for www.rugby15.co.za][firstname.lastname@example.org]