South Africans Heyneke Meyer and Butch James grabbed the headlines in the Guinness Premiership on Sunday as Leicester and Bath made winning starts.
Rugby 365 reports that Meyer, who replaced Argentina’s Marcelo Loffreda in the Leicester hot seat, saw his team win 20-8 at Gloucester thanks to late tries from Geordan Murphy and Toby Flood.
England back Flood kicked two early penalties on his Premiership debut for Leicester and claimed a late intercept try that he also converted.
Meyer, who led the Bulls to last year’s Super 14 title, said: “We always knew it would be tough.
“We knew Gloucester would come out firing and that we would have to get stuck in and show some attitude.
“Our fitness levels showed and I was very happy with the defence. Gloucester had a lot of opportunities out wide but we defended well.”
Bath triumphed 33-20 over neighbours Bristol, scoring three tries to two as Springboks flyhalf James kicked 18 points.
Bath coach Steve Meehan was full of praise for James, who only reported back after the Tri-Nations, but was instrumental in securing the European Challenge Cup holders’ first victory over their west country rivals at the Memorial Stadium since March 1998.
Meehan had no qualms about including James despite him having being involved in only a couple of training sessions.
“It was never in doubt. When he was replaced by South Africa against Australia [in the Tri-Nations] I said ‘You beauty’,” said Meehan.
“He makes things look easy. He is one of those players who has time on the ball. He has a lot of confidence on the guys in front of him and he has this marvellous way of talking to everyone on the field to organise them.”
Gloucester boss Dean Ryan struggled to contain his anger after last season’s Premiership table-toppers once again subsided amid the pressure of a big game.
In six seasons of Premiership play-offs, Gloucester finished top after the 22-game regular season, but are still waiting to collect silverware.
A deflated Ryan said: “I am frustrated, but we know why we lost that game.
“It is the small things and how we are being distracted that is killing us. We should have put the game away – we had the winning of it for 70 minutes.
“We have got to look at individuals.
“Yes, we will win games this season, but whether we can win big games? We’ve got to find out whether the personalities can take this club forward.
“The template is there for us to be a very good side, but taking responsibility is key.”
Gloucester must now prepare for the short trip to Bath next Saturday – a venue where they have never won a Premiership match
Meehan, who hopes to have Lipman available for their second west country derby – at home to Gloucester on Saturday – added: “Bristol are a tremendously tenacious side, they never give you anything, and you have to work for every point.
“I was happy with our performance overall, particularly the pack. I thought our scrum and line-out play was very good and that allowed everything else to flow.
“We got quick ball and Butch mixed-up the game – whether he released the backs or kicked, and got us on the front foot.
“The vast amount of field possessions went our way as a result.”
Bristol head coach Richard Hill, who had few resources available to attract big-name stars for this season, was full of praise for his side.
“It wasn’t the start to the season that we would have wanted but Bath are a good side,” said the former Bath and England scrumhalf.
“All our players tried as hard as they could and you can’t fault them at all. They played to the best of their ability and gave everything which is all you can ask.
“Our players were up for it. It was a huge ask for Mark Irish coming in at loosehead prop, on effectively his debut, up against the England tighthead [Matt Stevens] and then have Duncan Bell come on against him.
“The poor bloke was hanging in there and he did really well but that’s the way he’s going to learn as he is just starting his career.
“It was disappointing to lose but I don’t think we’ll come across many better sides than that.”Tweet