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Try-scoring moguls v turnover kings

SPOTLIGHT: If statistics are anything to go by, the Sharks might have a slight edge over Gloucester when they face off in the Final of the Challenge Cup at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Friday.

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While the Sharks have struggled in the United Rugby Championship, where they currently lie 13th, conquering Europe is now a clear goal for them.

The Durban franchise and the Premiership club have made the competition a priority from the start of the season, with a spot in next season’s Champions Cup on the line for the winners, both adrift of the qualification spots domestically.

The Sharks came through an enthralling semifinal against Clermont Auvergne to win 32-31 and become the first South African side to make an EPCR competition Final.

Flyhalf Siya Masuku kicked a vital 22 points at Twickenham, including the winning points when he converted Makazole Mapimpi’s 70th-minute try.

World Cup-winning stars abound in the Sharks squad and they have been the standout attacking team of this year’s EPCR competition.

They top the chart for points scored with 256 and tries scored with 31.

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Comparing the Sharks and Gloucester with each other indicates the men from Durban might have a slight edge over the Cherry and Whites come the Final.

Taking a closer look at the statistics in the competition, it shows that George Skivington’s charges are the turnover kings in the competition. They head their rivals with 51 while they rate third in lineout success.

In terms of clean breaks, the Sharks occupy the third spot on the list with 58 compared to fifth-placed Gloucester at 37.

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Defenders beaten shows Gloucester in second position on 131 and the Sharks on their heels in third at 129.

It has been a long rollercoaster of a campaign for Gloucester – and yet, despite their Premiership form, they now stand on the precipice of a second trophy this season.

The club made the Challenge Cup a priority from the outset, an impressive pool campaign securing them second ranking in the knockout stage and home fixtures all the way through to the Final.

Captain Lewis Ludlow knows the job is not done yet – there’s a trophy to win against the Sharks.

If Gloucester were to win, it would be their second trophy of the season after their triumph in the Premiership.

Gloucester’s last Challenge Cup win came in 2015, but since then they have appeared in two more finals, losing to Stade Français in 2017 and Cardiff in 2018 – both matches Ludlow started.

“We spoke about it [the losses] today,” Ludlow said.

“The one against Stade is a bit easier to take because I do think we were probably outplayed a little bit, but the Bilbao one [against Cardiff] is something that we should have won.

“We didn’t do ourselves justice in that game, and that’s what we want to make sure we do next Friday.

“We know if we get ourselves right, we can beat anyone on our day.”

News broke that former England international and long-time Gloucester servant Jonny May is set to leave the club at the end of the season.

With the Challenge Cup Final to be his last match, Ludlow said it would be no more than the wing deserved if he could depart the club with a winner’s medal.

Additional source @EPCR

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