Castres and Montpellier go head-to-head this Saturday in an exceptionally tight semi-final clash, with a place in the Top 14 Final up for grabs.
This will be the 4th season in a row these teams meet in the play-offs and the previous two meetings have gone the way of Castres. Montpellier certainly have the edge looking at the season as a whole, beating Clermont to an automatic Semi-Final spot, finishing second in the league to Toulon.
Castres meanwhile scraped into the play-offs, finishing in the final qualifying position in 6th, just one point ahead of Stade Francais. As we’ve already seen, however, knockout rugby is where this Castres team come into its own, and they possess in abundance the ability to win big matches.
The game also represents an interesting contrast in styles, as Montpellier can be one of the best teams in the league to watch when in the mood and playmaker supreme Francois Trinh-Duc will seek to get an impressive backline moving and do damage to Castres out wide. With the ever reliable Rory Kockott controlling the game alongside out-half Remi Tales, Castres will continue doing what they do best, conceding very little and taking every chance that comes their way.
Red-hot Kockott is hitting form at the right time and putting teams to the sword. This means Montpellier will have a huge task on their hands to avoid crashing out to Castres for the 3rd year in a row. Having won both regular season games between the sides, expect Castres to make it 3/3 on Saturday. Much like Jonny Sextonfor Racing Metro, the outcome of the game will depend on how well Trinh-Duc performs, and he needs to mix pragmatic and adventurous play at the right times if his side are to have a chance.
Gary Walsh, Pundit Arena.