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Werner Kok will give his all for Sharks before he leaves Shark Tank


If the Sharks can beat Clermont on Saturday in London, they will become the first South African team to play in the final of a European competition.

Werner Kok of the Hollywoodbets Sharks scores a try during the BKT United Rugby Championship against Connacht. Picture: Steve Haag Sports, INPHO, Shutterstock (14220806al)

Mike Greenaway

WERNER Kok played a blinder in the Sharks’ defeat of the Scarlets last week, causing some serious blushes for the authorities at The Tank who decided against a contract renewal for the Blitzbok superstar.

Kok was quite a sight – dashing in for a hat-trick of tries, his tousled locks in full flow – and little wonder Sharks fans are cursing his imminent move to Ulster in Northern Ireland.

But Kok has one, possibly two games left in Sharks colours, and the consummate team man is determined to help the Sharks win the Challenge Cup.

He says he wants one more cup, and if the Sharks can beat Clermont on Saturday in London, they will become the first South African team to play in the final of a European competition.

Kok has a mantelpiece groaning with trophies from his glory days in the golden era of the Blitzboks. He was the World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year in 2015 and in 2017, and he won a Currie Cup with Western Province when they beat the Sharks in the final.

“I’m extremely motivated to finish at the Sharks on a high,” the 31-year-old said. “If we could win the Challenge Cup, it would mean the world to me.”

Kok has been a trooper for the Sharks in this most difficult of seasons. He was busting a gut during the horror run in the United Rugby Championship, and he has been chasing anything that moves in the Sharks’ renaissance in the Challenge Cup.

We shouldn’t forget that the Sharks started their Challenge Cup run with a loss – to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein – but they have been unblemished in the tournament since.

There has been a turnaround since the URC win over Ulster, with five wins in six starts across both competitions, and even the loss against the Glasgow Warriors was a victory of sorts because a B-team almost beat the URC log leaders.

A simple explanation for the turnaround is that the Sharks have been a different team since they finally got back their World Cup Boks, but Kok says there is more to it than that.

“It was a few mindset changes in the camp that turned it around and we also had a culture change,” Kok said from London.

“Most people wouldn’t have seen it because it happened inside the camp, but there was quite a bit of change. Everyone is aligned towards one goal and that makes a massive difference.”

Sadly for Kok and his many Sharks fans, he is leaving at the start of the rebirth of the Sharks.

“The best is still to come for this team,” he said. “You can see things are falling in line at the moment. The Sharks are on the way to a proper place.

“If we can get past Clermont and win the final, that takes the Sharks into the Champions Cup next season and that will mean a lot to the guys.”

Especially considering where the Sharks have come from – it wasn’t long ago they were propping up the URC points ladder. They were the worst-performing side in the 16-team competition.

But Kok knows that beating a Clermont team packed with internationals from France, Argentina, Australia, Fiji and Tonga is easier said than done.

Clermont showed their class when they beat Ulster 53-14 in their Challenge Cup quarter-final, and last week backed it up with a 41-18 defeat of French Top 14 leaders Stade Francais.

But Kok points out that the semi-final is on neutral ground and that counts for plenty considering how strong Clermont are on their home ground of Stade de Michelin.

“We want to make The Stoop a home from home,” he said. “There are thousands of South Africans in London and we would love them to be in Sharks colours on Saturday.”

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