French renaissance for SA's Jenneker
Durban-born hooker Jody Jenneker was in the Oyonnax side that beat Heineken Cup champions Toulon in a Top 14 clash last weekend.
The 25-22 result is arguably the biggest upset of the season in Europe as Oyonnax are newbies in France's leading club competition, after being promoted from the Pro D2 as champions at the end of the 2012/13 season.
But the victory over Toulon was no fluke as Oyonnax, who are based in the east of France, had beaten Heineken Cup runners-up Clermont and Top 14 champions Castres in previous league matches at home.
They also suffered a narrow 16-15 loss to Stade Français two weeks ago which was their first defeat at home in almost two years.
Jenneker said although those previous victories against the other powerhouses of the French game were memorable, beating a star-studded Toloun outfit, which included international greats like Jonny Wilkinson, Bakkies Botha, Ali Williams, Danie Rossouw, Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell, was truly special.
"Beating more established teams such as Clermont and Castres with big name players all at home was great, but the biggest highlight and shock for us and many in France, if not globally, was beating Toulon with their full strength team," Jenneker told SARugby.com in an exclusive interview.
"On paper we all were aware of what to expect but we rose above it on game day. We made no room for fear, intimidation and panic but focussed more on our job and what we have to do in order to win the match."
Jenneker said Oyonnax were their own worst enemies in the defeat to Stade Français which ended their proud home record.
"The match against Stade Français was a fairly even battle on the day," added the 29-year-old, who represented the Sharks in the Currie Cup and at Super Rugby level.
"Both sides defended and attacked well but it was our little errors that kept them in the game. They also capitalised on it when we received a yellow card in the last seven minutes and scored a try when we were ahead 12-9."
Jenneker has played in France since 2011 and previously had stints at Lyon and Dijon before moving to Oyonnax last year. He is enjoying the lifestyle in France and feels he made the right move, especially now that he is established at Oyonnax.
"There have been a few personal and team highlights," he said.
"My try against Clermont stands out as I was the first player to score a try at our new stadium and it was extra special as it was the first home Top 14 match for Oyonnax."
The hooker, who represented the Emerging Springboks in 2008, also believes the French game suits his style of play and has ambitions of representing his adopted country one day.
"I'd like to continue and pursue my rugby career in France," Jenneker revealed.
"I am very happy with the progress I've made and have no regrets about coming over. I would also like to continue with my progress in playing at a high level here.
"I am one of the younger hookers in the competition and hopefully one day it could create an opportunity of an international call-up because I will be eligible (to play for France) at the end of this season."