Ox Nche of the Sharks tackles Viliame Mata of Edinburgh Rugby. Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Can the Sharks overcome their playoff curse?

Sharks face Clermont Auvergne in a historic Challenge Cup semifinal clash, as they aim to become the first South African winners.


Ox Nche of the Sharks tackles Viliame Mata of Edinburgh Rugby. Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

The Sharks will make history as they face French powerhouse Clermont Auvergne in the Challenge Cup semifinal at Twickenham Stoop on Saturday. This matchup promises a thrilling encounter between two teams with vastly different European competition track records.

Clermont Auvergne: Challenge Cup Powerhouse

Clermont Auvergne has dominated the Challenge Cup, winning the trophy three times, most recently in 2017. They have been runners-up in the Champions Cup three times, but the Challenge Cup is where they truly shine.

The French side won in 1999, 2007, and 2017, and finished as runners-up in 2004. Their consistent performance has made them joint-record winners of the tournament, cementing their status as a Challenge Cup force.

Sharks Aim for International Breakthrough

The Sharks, on the other hand, aim to become the first South African franchise to achieve success in Europe. Despite their impressive domestic record, the Durban-based team has yet to win an international title.

The Sharks hold the unfortunate distinction of being “the most successful team never to have won Super Rugby.” In 24 years, they reached the play-offs 12 times without clinching the trophy, finishing as runners-up four times and semi-finalists on four other occasions.

Sharks Look to Overcome Semifinal Hurdle

For the Sharks, advancing past the semifinal stage is crucial for redemption and breaking their international trophy drought.

They prepared for the clash with Clermont Auvergne by securing a hard-fought 32-27 victory over Scarlets in the United Rugby Championship last Friday.

As the first South African and Southern Hemisphere side to reach the last four of an EPCR competition, the Sharks understand the significance of this moment.

However, they face a formidable opponent in Clermont, who thrashed table-topping Stade Francais 41-18 in a Top 14 match over the weekend.

Sharks Face Mammoth Task Against Clermont

To end their international trophy drought and make history, the Sharks must produce a mammoth effort against the three-time Challenge Cup winners.

Clermont Auvergne’s experience and pedigree in this competition make them a daunting prospect for any team.

Sharks’ head coach Neil Powell acknowledges the challenge ahead, stating, “We know that Clermont Auvergne is a top-quality side with a rich history in European competitions. It’s going to take a special performance from our boys to come out on top, but we’re ready for the challenge.”

An Epic Encounter Awaits

As the two teams prepare to take the field at Twickenham Stoop, rugby fans around the world eagerly anticipate an enthralling battle.

With the Sharks chasing their first international title and Clermont Auvergne aiming for a record-extending fourth Challenge Cup triumph, the stage is set for an epic encounter that will be remembered for years to come.