French Top 14 Semi-Finals: Clermont Auvergne v Racing 92 Preview


Shaun Goosen takes a look at what should be a titanic Top 14 semi-final between Clermont and Racing Metro. 

Clermont resume their 2016/17 campaign at home to Racing 92, in the second of this season’s Top 14 semi-finals on Saturday. Having lost out in yet another European Cup final a fortnight ago, this fantastic Clermont side will be giving absolutely everything to make sure they end the season with some silverware to show for it. Meanwhile, Racing 92, having snuck into this year’s semis off the back of a 13-22 surprise away defeat of Montpellier, will be looking to defend their title in what has been a rather tumultuous year for the Parisian club thus far. This is shaping up to be one hell-of-a-showdown.

Clermont Auvergne v Racing Metro 92 | Saturday 27 May | Stade Velodrome | 09:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Clermont 9/20 | Draw 19/1 | Racing 37/20

What a classy outfit Franck Azéma has at his disposal. Clermont are the epitome of  'French flair', and the way they play the game really is a breath of fresh air when compared to certain clubs in Europe. They so nearly came away with a win in the Champions Cup trophy - and it would have been nothing if not deserved. Alas, the current Saracens crop that managed to pip them could well be one of the greatest club sides ever to have played the game, and Clermont’s admirable fightback is testimony to what a great team they are.

They will expect to beat a haphazard Racing outfit this weekend, and claim entry into their first final since 2015; not least so because of the way they dispatched the same opposition, 47-10 in Round 4. Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez form one of the deadliest and most accurate halfback pairings in Europe, they will continue to dictate play against Racing. Captain Damien Chouly and his pack of forwards, led by the irrepressible Sébastien Vahaamahina in the second-row, will look to dominate proceedings up front to allow their wonderful array of backs to showcase their attacking talents. I expect a very exciting, pacey game from Clermont this weekend.

Racing 92
Some may consider the defending champions lucky to be in the last four. Having finished the regular season in sixth, and having to face a powerful South African-esque Montpellier line-up in the qualifier; few would have expected them to fair as well as they have. And yet; here they are. Their season has been blighted by a series of controversies; from the whole Johan Goosen saga, Dan 'The Man' Carter's drunk-driving charge, and even the curious case of the planned merger with Stade Francais. Last season’s champions seem to have shrugged off all these setbacks to find themselves in their current position – kudos to them.

That being said, they will be hard pressed to overcome such a devastating Clermont attack. Theirs is a side that can score from any end of the pitch (think Nick Abendanon’s try in the European final), and they have two shrewd operators in Parra and Lopez pulling the strings. Dan Carter will need to call on all of his experience to outthink the Clermont pair, but if anyone can do it, it surely is the dual-World Cup winner. Joe Rokocoko continues to roll back the years (his audacious offload last week was certainly a highlight), while the likes of the Flying Fijian lock, Leone Nakarawa will lead his forward pack onwards and upwards. With the talent and pedigree in this Racing side; they definitely have the potential to run Clermont close on Saturday.

Verdict: Clermont 9/20
Clermont have been a class apart this season, and they should be able to overcome Racing on Saturday; Dan Carter or no. Their attacking capabilities are endless, and the pinpoint accuracy of their halfbacks’ tactical kicking should keep the Racing men guessing. Not that they’re likely to kick away much possession – you can safely bet on one or two dazzling moments of running rugby from the Champions Cup runners-up.

Written by Shaun Goosen for!

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