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VIDEO: How Sharks plan to 'sneak' in through Europe's back door

The Sharks may be rooted at the bottom of the United Rugby Championship standings and playing in the second tier Challenge Cup, but they have ambitions of returning to Europe’s top table.


The Sharks took a giant leap towards a place in the Challenge Cup’s Round of 16 with a 38-7 bonus-point win over French outfit Oyonnax at Kings Park at the weekend.

In a scrappy Round Three game, played in the taxing heat and humidity of Durban, the home team outscored the visitors by six tries to one – wing Makazole Mapimpi and prop Ox Nche getting two each.

It was not a perfect performance, but an impressive win over a French team that is yet to win a match in Europe this season.

The win saw the Sharks move to the summit of Pool One, at least for 24 hours, with a match against the Dragons at Rodney Parade in Newport to come next week.

Director of Rugby Neil Powell – standing in for coach John Plumtree – admitted that it was by no stretch was it a perfect performance, but the biggest positive was the ‘much-needed win’ in a season of dire results.

It was also not the best Oyonnax team, so the celebrations need to be tempered.

(WATCH as Sharks Director of Rugby Neil Powell chats to @king365ed about the way forward in Europe for the franchise….)

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“It is a foundation for us to build on for the next game,” he said of the trip to Rodney Parade in Newport and a Round Four encounter with the Dragons.

He added that the Challenge Cup has now become an ‘important’ competition for the Sharks, as they are well placed to advance not only to the play-offs, but also regain a spot at Europe’s top table – the Champions Cup.

Given that their chances of finishing in the top eight of the United Rugby Championship is slim, they now have to win the Challenge Cup to get entry into the top tier.

“We will probably go back to a settled squad,” he said of the team selection for the encounter with the Dragons, adding: “We must pick our best available team, because it will not be easy.”


He referenced their URC 20-32 loss to the lowly Scarlets in Llanelli last season as a reason to be cautious about the trip to Wales this week.

Challenge Cup Pool One stadings after three rounds

“We will ensure we prepare well for that game, to be successful.”

Finishing top of the pool and as high up as possible on the overall standings is also vital.

“It will ensure we play most of our play-offs at home,” he said of the Round of 16 and possibly quarterfinal.

From the semifinals, South African teams can no longer host games, but must choose European venues as their ‘homes’.

“That is where we came undone last year,” Powell told @rugby365com, adding: “We did well against Munster here [in Durban] and then had to play Toulon in France.

“You need home games if you want to go through to the Final and that is what we will be fighting for.”


VIDEO: How Sharks plan to 'sneak' in through Europe's back door

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