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Sharks doing it the Springbok way - by one point

MATCH REPORT: The Sharks produced a sensational comeback to become the first South African team to appear in a European Professional Club Rugby Final.


Trailing 18-31 on the hour mark, the Durban-based outfit scored two brilliant tries – one while a man down – to edge French giants and three-time Challenge Cup winners Clermont Auvergne by a solitary point – 32-31.

It had shades of South Africa’s successful World Cup campaign – resilience unbounded, with the international players coming to the fore when it mattered most and winning the key moments.

They now head to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 24 to play in the Challenge Cup Final.

For the first hour, the Clermont pack of galácticos made the Sharks’ collection of World Cup winners look like second-rate amateurs – winning a couple of scrum penalties and dominating the line-outs.

With a misfiring set piece, it was not until midway through the second half that the Sharks produced any threat on attack.

That was when their World Cup-winning Springboks started asserting themselves on the game – their experience and grit shining through.


However, the true star was flyhalf Siyabonga Masuku – who showed all the attributes Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus demands from a player – calmness under pressure, slotting the match winner from the touchline like a seasoned professional and putting his body on the line for the team.

He was – in the Bok coach’s words – a true warrior.

* To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!

(Article continues below ….)

An offside penalty in the third minute allowed flyhalf Siyabonga Masuku to put the Sharks on the board.

However, Clermont hit straight back – with wing Joris Jurand finishing off a sublime move of great interpassing that exposed the Sharks’ defence. Flyhalf Anthony Belleau made it a 7-3 lead after five minutes.


Masuku claimed three more points back, after a chaser was taken out off the ball, and reclaimed the lead with an offside penalty in the 14th minute – 9-7.

From the restart, Belleau made it 10-9, as the Sharks’ ball carrier was isolated.

The tit-for-tat nature of the game continued, as Masuku slotted a penalty for offside to make it 12-10.

And a cross-field kick by Belleau set up Jurand for his second at the end of the first quarter. The flyhalf hooked his conversion attempt – 15-12.

Another offside penalty saw Masuku level the scores up at 15-all after 26 minutes.

After playing an opponent in the air, Marcos Kremer was fortunate to escape with just a penalty, but the penalties were mounting.

Another offside penalty saw Masuku reclaim the lead – 18-15 just short of the half-hour mark.

Again the French backline exposed the rushing Sharks defence with great handling – fullback Alex Newsome getting the third try. Belleau added the conversion – 22-18.

That was followed by a breakdown penalty against the Sharks, which Belleau slotted for a 25-18 lead, with another breakdown penalty allowing the flyhalf to make it a 10-point (28-18) lead at the break.

The second half started disastrously for the Sharks – conceding a penalty in front of their posts from the restart. Belleau made it 31-18 with his fourth penalty.

The Sharks finally found some energy and synergy, the additional pressure forcing wing Bautista Delguy into committing a cynical foul and being yellow-carded for illegally slapping the pass down.

A series of forward raids inside the Clermont 22-metre area eventually saw prop Vincent Koch barge over from close range after 15 phases. Masuku’s conversion narrowed the gap to six points – 25-31.

However, Aphelele Fassi was then yellow-carded for taking an opponent out, off the ball.

Belleau pushed the penalty kick wide of the upright, leaving the Sharks within one score range with 15 minutes remaining.

The Sharks hit the front with eight minutes remaining and still a man in the bin – Eben Etzebeth reclaiming a contestable kick, quick hands putting Makazole Mapimpi over for a try, with Masuku’s touchline conversion giving the Durban-based team a one=-point lead – 32-31.

And the South African team hung on for a famous one-point win.

The scorers

For the Sharks
Tries: Koch, Mapimpi
Cons: Masuku 2
Pens: Masuku 6

For Clermont Auvergne
Tries: Jurand 2, Newsome
Cons: Belleau 2
Pens: Belleau 4

Yellow cards: Bautista Delguy (Clermont Auvergne, 59 – cynical foul, slapping the ball down), Aphelele Fassi (Sharks, 64 – foul play, taking an opponent out off the ball)


Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Werner Kok, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Ethan Hooker, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Siyabonga 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 Auvergne: 15 Alex Newsome, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Julien Heriteau, 12 Léon Darricarrere, 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 Yerim Fall.

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


* Picture credit: @ChallengeCup_

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