Home Sport Five things the Sharks must polish ahead of Challenge Cup semi-final

Five things the Sharks must polish ahead of Challenge Cup semi-final

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On Friday night the Sharks play a URC match against the Scarlets that doubles as a dress rehearsal for next week’s EPCR Challenge Cup semi-final against Clermont Auvergne in London.

Aphelele Fassi of Hollywoodbets Sharks. Picture: Gerhard Duraan, BackpagePix

Mike Greenaway

On Friday night the Sharks play a URC match against the Scarlets that doubles as a dress rehearsal for next week’s EPCR Challenge Cup semi-final against Clermont Auvergne in London.

The log points at stake are of little consequence, but the performance’s quality is vital. Mike Greenaway looks at five things the Durbanites must get right in this match with an eye on Clermont.

Dominate the Scarlets first

The Sharks’ marketing department has released a clever “call-to-arms” poster advert on social media ahead of the semi-final against Clermont.

That game takes place at the home ground of Harlequins, The Stoop, which is in the shadow of Twickenham Stadium.

The poster reads: “Make The Stoop our Stoep!” It is an appeal to South Africans in the greater London area to attend the game. The poster is clever but the best way to attract Sharks fans is to destroy the Scarlets on Friday night.

Manage the team right

The advert described above features photos of Eben Etzebeth and Bongi Mbonambi looking suitably stern. These two seasoned Springboks will be the most important pillars in the Sharks pack against Clermont.

They are also senior players who need to be managed. Coach John Plumtree has to correctly gauge how much action to give them against the Scarlets.

The pair must be fresh for Clermont but also not rusty.

The group of star players that did not travel for last week’s Glasgow game are now in Wales. They are going to play on Friday but mustn’t be overplayed.

Let the ‘Weekend Special’ have a run

Plumtree won’t be shy to give extended game time to red-hot Aphelele Fassi, who was one of those rested for the Warriors. He was player of the match in the quarter-final defeat of Edinburgh and he dominated the stats released by the URC organisers last week. Fassi led the URC in two categories.

The 967m he had gained with ball in hand was 150m more than any other player in the competition. His 18 clean breaks were also the most while his 148 carries were second only to Gavin Coombes of Munster.

Don’t underestimate the Scarlets

The Welsh teams have had a horror URC in general but they are finishing strongly. The Stormers will tell you as much after their shock loss to the Ospreys.

Last week, the Scarlets were leading Edinburgh at half-time in the Scottish capital before fading in the second. Speaking of the Ospreys, Plumtree coached them to great success in the late 1990s when they were Swansea.

Plumtree knows Welsh rugby in detail and how well he knows one of the Scarlets flanks on Friday night, his son Taine. The Scarlets have some nifty players, including current Wales internationals in flyhalf Sam Costelow and scrumhalf Gareth Davies.

Hone the team’s tactics

It is hard to say now what the weather will be like at The Stoop for the semi-final but even if the skies are clear, the pitch will not be as fast as Kings Park.

This match in Llanelli allows playmakers Jaden Hendrikse and Siya Masuku the opportunity to perfect their approach between playing for territory and running the ball.

Given the power of the Sharks’ pack, which should be at full strength for most of the match, Masuku will want to keep the ball in front of Etzebeth and Co and let them exert pressure deep in Scarlets territory.

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