Sharks Challenge Cup

Springboks and Sharks hooker Bongi Mbonambi. Image: X/Twitter

Springbok-laden Sharks hunt final berth in Challenge Cup

A powerful Sharks team will be looking to book a spot in the Challenge Cup final with a win over Clermont on Saturday.

Sharks Challenge Cup

Springboks and Sharks hooker Bongi Mbonambi. Image: X/Twitter

The Sharks’ United Rugby Championship play-off hopes have already been dashed, but this will mark a significant occasion for the KwaZulu-Natalians to earn some redemption in a season of mixed fortunes.

As it is, the Sharks will have a golden opportunity to make history by becoming the first South African franchise to advance to the EPCR Challenge Cup final. A massive incentive of reaching the final could also eventuate if the Sharks clinch the title decider to qualify for the coveted Champions Cup.

Bongi Mbonambi will start in a Springbok-laden Sharks line-up, which also features the likes of Ox Nche, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Grant Williams, Makazole Mapimpi Lukhanyo Am and Aphelele Fassi.

Am said the Durbanites are excited for the semi-final in London, adding, “In games like this, it’s about getting the best prep and we’ve done a great deal to put ourselves in this position and once you’re in the changeroom, it’s about having confidence in the prep you’ve done.

“This game is a big one for us and everyone is hyped and excited to be playing in a semi against a quality side like Clermont.

“We back our set piece against a good Clermont set piece and they do mix it up between forwards and backs, which is the same with us. So it’s definitely going to be an exciting game.

“With all the prep we’ve done, I think we’re ready.”

How the Sharks will line up for crucial Challenge Cup clash

Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am (c), 12 Ethan Hooker, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Siya Masuku, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 James Venter, 5 Emile van Heerden, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche.
Subs: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Gerbrandt Grobler, 20 Jeandre Labuschagne, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Boeta Chamberlain, 23 Francois Venter.

Match details:

Date: Saturday, 4 May
Venue: Twickenham Stoop, London
SA time: 13h30
Referee: Luke Pearce
TV: SuperSport

Given the close margins between the teams this season it is expected to be a humdinger.

Both sides suffered only one defeat in the competition to date, while Clermont hold a narrow one-point lead over the Sharks on points’ difference in their five matches. Adding to this, both sides come off morale-boosting victories last weekend in the URC and French Top 14.

While Clermont will enter the match with confidence after registering a convincing 41-18 victory at home against Stade Francais in the Top 14, the Sharks will draw inspiration from their 32-27 victory against the Scarlets in Llanelli in the URC.

Interestingly, the teams find themselves in a similarly precarious position this season with disappointing performances early in the season, with the Durbanites having won four of their 15 matches in the URC.Clermont’s track record shows nine wins in 22 outings in the Top 14, making this a vital clash for both teams.