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Challenge Cup, Semifinals - Teams and Predictions

PREVIEW: The Sharks are ready to turn the Stoop into their ‘Stoep’.


The team from Durban will be the designated home side against Clermont Auvergne in their Challenge Cup semifinal at Twickenham Stoop on Saturday.

While the Sharks will be missing some of their home comforts at Kings Park, they have been hard at work making London a home away from home.

“I would rather be playing them here [in London] than in France,” said Sharks head coach John Plumtree.

“I would certainly prefer Kings Park, but we have settled here at Lensbury [training base] for the week and our preparation has been really good.

“The marketing team has gone above and beyond to make sure that it’s a good day for us and hopefully we will get plenty of South Africans to the game to support us.

“There has been a lot of work put in and hopefully we will see a nice little crowd there. I certainly don’t think it will be a massive crowd.


“The Army will be playing the Navy next door [at Twickenham Stadium] and there will be 60,000 going to that one, so it’s a pity we couldn’t play after that game.”

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Clermont will have a few seasoned campaigners in their matchday squad and Plumtree knows that his team will be facing one of their sternest tests of the season.

“They are a side that loves continuity in their game and that includes winning collisions, offloading and letting the game flow through their skills.


“They can absolutely butcher teams by winning collisions and keeping the flow of the game going.

“We’ve seen a lot of that, particularly when they’ve played at home, so it’s certainly going to be a tough challenge as you would expect it to be at a semifinal stage.”

The battle between the two packs is set to be a defining one.

“The set-pieces are going to be important. We’ve got a lot of confidence in our pack,” said Plumtree.

“Their pack is strong as well. They’ve got a big line-out and a big drive.

“They are not just a side that can play around the park with their continuity skills, but they can also play pretty tough up front as well. There are no real weaknesses here and they have found some form.

“There is no magic bullet for us. It’s about us playing really well in all departments.”

Saturday’s second Challenge Cup semifinal will see Gloucester at home against Italian side Benetton.

Gloucester’s hopes of Premiership glory have long been distant after a poor start to the season, while their general form in England’s league has been patchy at best.

However, their displays in the EPCR Challenge Cup have been much better.

George Skivington’s men racked up two especially impressive away wins in Edinburgh and in Georgia against Black Lion, while the Shed was given some overdue cheer with a home thrashing of Castres Olympique and a fine home win over Clermont Auvergne.

“The set-piece will be massive,” said Italian international and Gloucester scrumhalf Stephen Varney.

“Benetton kick the most in the URC and we are expecting a lot of kicking from them.

“This is knockout rugby and it’s about who makes the first mistake.

“We haven’t had the best run in the league, but in the knockout games, we have nailed it.

“Hopefully, we can have the same mindset and put in a performance to get the win and reach the Final.”

See below for Saturday’s teams and predictions!

Saturday, May 4:

Sharks v Clermont Auvergne
(Twickenham Stoop, London – Kick-off: 12.30; 13.30 SAST; 13.30 CEST; 11.30 GMT)


@rugby365com: Sharks by seven points.


Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 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.
Replacements: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Gerbrandt Grobler, 20 Jeandre Labuschagne, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Boeta Chamberlain, 23 Francois Venter.

Clermont: 15 Alex Newsome, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Julien Heriteau, 12 George Moala, 11 Joris Jurand, 10 Anthony Belleau, 9 Baptiste Jauneau, 8 Fritz Lee (captain), 7 Peceli Yato, 6 Marcos Kremer, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Etienne Fourcade, 1 Giorgi Beria.
Replacements: 16 Yohan Beheregaray, 17 Giorgi Dzmanashvili, 18 Cristian Ojovan, 19 Thibault Lanen, 20 Killian Tixeront, 21 Pita-Gus Sowakula, 22 Theo Giral, 23 Léon Darricarrere.

Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Karl Dickson (England), Matthew Carley (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)

Gloucester v Benetton
(Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester – Kick-off: 15.00; 16.00 CEST; 14.00 GMT)


@rugby365com: Benetton by three points.


Gloucester: 15 Josh Hathaway, 14 Jonny May, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Seb Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Caolan Englefiled, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Lewis Ludlow (captain), 6 Ruan Ackermann, 5 Freddie Thomas, 4 Freddie Clarke, 3 Kirill Gotovtsev, 2 Seb Blake, 1 Mayco Vivas.
Replacements: 16 Santi Socino, 17 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Albert Tuisue, 20 Jack Clement, 21 Stephen Varney, 22 Charlie Atkinson, 23 Alex Hearle.

Benetton: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 Ignacio Mendy, 13 Tommaso Menoncello, 12 Ignacio Brex, 11 Onisi Ratave, 10 Tomas Albornoz, 9 Alessandro Garbisi, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Michele Lamaro (captain), 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Scott Scrafton, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Giacomo Nicotera, 1 Thomas Gallo.
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Mirco Spagnolo, 18 Giosué Zilocchi, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Edoardo Iachizzi, 21 Alessandro Izekor, 22 Andy Uren, 23 Leonardo Marin.

Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
Assistant referees: Mike Adamson (Scotland); Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

Additional reporting: @ChallengeCup_

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