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The one hurdle the Sharks must overcome

SPOTLIGHT: When the Sharks ‘host’ French outfit Clermont Auvergne in a Challenge Cup semifinal at Twickenham Stoop on Saturday, it will be a clash of teams with contrasting réclame.


Clermont Auvergne is the most decorated team in Europe’s second tier, having won the Challenge Cup on three occasions – the last time in 2017.

While Clermont Auvergne has only been runners-up – 2013, 2015 and 2017 – in the premier competition, the Champions Cup, it is in the Challenge Cup where they have left their mark.

The were winners in 1999, 2007 and 2017, as well as runners-up in 2004 – making them joint-record winners of the tournament.

While the French team is chasing an historic fourth title, the Sharks are chasing their first-ever ‘international’ success.

They are determined to become the first South African franchise to win any honours in Europe.


However, the Durban-based outfit must first overcome one of the most paltry play-off records in the game.

The Sharks still holds the undesirable record of ‘the most successful team never to have won Super Rugby’.

Before South African headed north, the Sharks reached the play-offs 12 times in 24 years – without winning the event.

They were runners-up four times (1996, 2001, 2007 & 2012), semifinalists another four times (1997, 1998, 2008 & 2014), as well as quarterfinalists on five occasions.


Getting past the semifinal is just one step towards redemption, but a vital step.

The Sharks warmed up for the meeting with Clermont Auvergne with a 32-27 victory over Scarlets in the United Rugby Championship outing last Friday.

They are the first South African and Southern Hemisphere side to reach the last four of an EPCR competition.

The three-time winners, Clermont, showed their true qualities when they dispatched the table-topping Stade Francais 41-18 in a Top 14 match this past weekend.

Ut is going to require a mammoth effort from the Sharks to end their international trophy drought.


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