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Gloucester vs Sharks preview: Durban team to claim first Challenge Cup : Planet Rugby

The time has come as there are only two teams left in the hunt for European glory in the form of the Challenge Cup; It’s Gloucester taking on the Sharks at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

For both teams, their league performances were below par, as Gloucester finished the Premiership comfortably in second-to-last place and only ahead of winless Newcastle, while the Sharks also failed to bathe in glory with just four wins in 17 games.

However, the teams found a safe haven in the Challenge Cup, where they put in some of their best turns and the competition now presents itself as a unique opportunity to win titles and a place in next season’s Champions Cup.

Interestingly, the final will take place in London at Spurs’ high-tech stadium, which can only be an advantage for Gloucester, who will be much more accustomed to English conditions than their Kwa-Zulu Natal rivals. Although the Sharks successfully used Twickenham Stoop as their home stadium in the semi-final against Clermont, the support in the stands on Friday will likely be against them.

There is no doubting the quality of both teams and in particular the Sharks’ big Rugby World Cup winners, who they will be desperate to lean on in the play-off pressure in which the likes of Eben Etzebeth seem to thrive.

Everything is set for an exciting final as both teams are keen to use the trophy to transform the prospects of their seasons and in turn set up a positive season in the future.

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Where the game will be won

As in most knockout games, discipline will be key, especially with accurate goal kicks from Gloucester’s Santi Carreras and Sharks center Siya Masuku. Staying on the right side of the law will be vital and the Sharks are likely to look to take advantage of the sanctions through their successful scrum, which consists of five Rugby World Cups in total in the front row alone with Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Vicente Koch.

The Durbanites successfully used their scrum to finance the score against Clermont in the semi-finals and will look to do so again. Gloucester will need to find a way to achieve parity in that department and try to trouble them at the lineout. In addition to that is winning the match, another facet that will be said in the result.

Ultimately, the Sharks have serious firepower across the board and while they haven’t hit their targets this season, there’s a real chance they can find their groove if Gloucester lets them play.

What they say

Gloucester boss George Skivington is under no illusions about the threat the Sharks pose and expects a big challenge.

“They have a lot of guys who can change a game in a moment and we have to be prepared for that. “They are a big opposition with a lot of well-known names,” he said.

“Like us, their league campaign hasn’t gone to plan so both teams have a lot to play for.

“There’s no escaping the physicality with the Sharks. Guys like Etzebeth are very big, powerful men, and if you’re not prepared for that physical battle, it’s going to be a long day.

“We are proud of our set pieces and we work very hard at it, and so do they. It is a characteristic of South Africa to have a very strong set piece, so I expect it to be a very competitive area of ​​the game.”

Meanwhile, Grant Williams spoke exclusively with features editor Jared Wright about how far the Sharks have come this season.

“There were a lot of things that didn’t work, but at the end of the season, you’re seeing it’s working, and it’s evident how far we’ve come to be in the finals,” he said.

Players to watch

Chris Harris He is an experienced center with impressive defensive ability and has become a key star in the Gloucester set-up. So it is too Santi Carreraswho not only poses a threat on goal kicks, but is also dangerous in open play and should attract players like Jonny May and Ollie Thorley in the foreground: the latter likes to come and look for work anyway.

Pattern Luis Ludlow He is a quality player and will inevitably empty his tank while contributing expertly to the lineout. The combination of it with the blockbuster Zach Mercer and Ruan Ackerman could very well have a telling impact on this game. The Sharks can’t afford to let the back line dictate the game.

For the Sharks, their three hard-working defenders Werner Kok, Aphelele Fassi and Makazol Mapimpi can change a game in the blink of an eye, which is why Gloucester’s scrum half Caolan Englefield You will have to keep your till running with the money. Another star at the back to pay attention to is the young Ethan Hooker who has grabbed his opportunities with both hands this season and will do his best to test everyone on the field.

The pack has quality everywhere except that. Bok in the front row with people like Etzebeth in the mix it will be huge. If the forwards dominate Gloucester, they might have done half the job already. It is a great game for these players to show that they can inspire their club to greater heights.

Main face to face

The confrontation to follow for the final is between the generals, it is the battle of the openings.

Adam Hastings He has been solid for Gloucester this season, kicking very well and controlling where they play with authority for the most part. The Scotsman is a very talented player and in this one he will have to be very careful in everything he does and, most importantly, kick well. If Gloucester is loose with their kicking game, the Sharks’ back three could do some damage. It’s a big game moment for Hastings.

For the sharks Siya Masuku’s His introduction to the team has been a real savior this season. The opening is underway spot With his goal kick, he loves the cross-court shot and is not afraid to take the ball to the line. He is a great example of how a reliable center can establish a team. His rise in stature has been spectacular to watch and has led to a Springbok call-up and this final offers him the perfect audition to prove his worth on a very high stage.

Prediction

It will be a close game and one in which both teams will be desperate to fix their season. Expect the clash to be exhausting and the set piece to be absolutely critical. Ultimately, the Sharks have too much firepower and the quality of experience of their World Cup-winning Springboks will show. Sharks will win the Challenge Cup by five points.

The teams

Gloucester: 15 Santi Carreras, 14 Jonny May, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Seb Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Caolan Englefield, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Lewis Ludlow (c), 6 Ruan Ackermann, 5 Arthur Clark, 4 Freddie Clarke , 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Seb Blake, 1 Jamal Ford-Robinson
Replacements: 16 Santi Socino, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Kirill Gotovtsev, 19 Albert Tuisue, 20 Jack Clement, 21 Stephen Varney, 22 Max Llewellyn, 23 Josh Hathaway

Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Ethan Hooker, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Siya Masuku, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 James Venter, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c) , 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Nche Ox
Replacements: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Lappies Labuschagne, 20 Dylan Richardson, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Curwin Bosch, 23 Eduan Keyter

Date: Friday May 24
Event: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
Kick off: 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace (Ireland), Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)
Television coverage: TNT Sports / France TV / beIN SPORTS / ITV / SuperSport / RTE / epcrugby.tv

READ MORE: Leinster v Toulouse: Bernard Jackman’s five battles to unlock an Irish victory, including ‘invaluable’ Springbok experience

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