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VIDEO: Dance of the desperates at New White Hart Lane

It is one last throw of the dice for Gloucester and the Sharks to salvage something of a season that can only be described as a dreadful disaster.

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Win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and there will be silverware in the showcase to celebrate.

The loser will have to reflect on a shambolic season of débâcles.

It was early in the New Year that it became obvious both were targeting Europe as a stage for redemption – both having failed miserably in their respective domestic campaigns.

Gloucester finished second from bottom in the Premiership – just five wins from 18 starts.

The Sharks are sitting 13th out of 16 teams in the United Rugby Championship with a round to go – four wins from 17 starts.

That is why winning the Challenge Cup offers them a chance of atonement.

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Sharks Director of Rugby Neil Powell articulated some of the biggest challenges his side has faced in the build-up to Friday’s Grand Finale – including their inability to put a full 80-minute performance together.

“At times we have played some good rugby, but at times we have fallen off the pace and not played an 80-minute game.

“We need to put together 80 minutes of consistent rugby and be a lot more clinical, especially in a game like a final.”

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However, Powell believes the Challenge Cup campaign has hinted at a brighter future after a season which started with a revamp of the coaching structures.

He suggested the Final could be a launchpad for next season.

“It will be a great reward for the hard work put in this year – a pat on the back,” the Sharks boss said.

“As a coaching team and a squad, there has been a lot of hard work put in over the last eight to nine months since the start of the URC and it is important to get that reward in the Final.

“The guys know they must go out there and make it happen.

“No team will just roll over and give you success.

“You have to go out there and play well.”

“But it would be good to make a bit of history by becoming the first South African team to win a European trophy. That is a big motivation for us internally.

“It is about where we want to go not just on Friday, but in the next two years.

“To win we have to be very disciplined, make a massive effort to stick to what we have discussed and how we want to play that Gloucester team.”

(WATCH as Sharks Director of Rugby Neil Powell previews the Challenge Cup Final face-off against Gloucester….)

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It will be a novel experience for the Sharks to play at a ‘neutral’ ground, even though Gloucester will be very familiar with the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – the home of Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur in north London, replacing the club’s previous ground, White Hart Lane.

With a seating capacity of 62,850, the multi-purpose stadium opened in April 2019 .

The name ‘Tottenham Hotspur Stadium’ was meant to be temporary, the intention being to sell the naming rights to a sponsor. However, it has still not been renamed.

The stadium is sometimes referred to as New White Hart Lane by fans and some in the media.

With the hosting rights for the Final of the second-tier Challenge Cup and the premier tournament, Champions Cup put out to tender, the season-ending showpiece will almost always be on ‘neutral ground’.

“With the experienced squad that we have, with the international players so used to travelling, they know what it takes to hit the road and be successful,” Powell said.

“We will rely on that experience, but the collective will make us successful on Friday.”

@king365ed
@rugby365com

* Picture credit: Steve Haag

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