Gloucester wary of Sharks’ ‘powerful’ game-changing Springboks

Jared Wright
Sharks lock Eben Etzebeth and Gloucester head coach George Skivington.

Sharks lock Eben Etzebeth and Gloucester head coach George Skivington.

Gloucester boss George Skivington is under no illusion as to what his side is up against in the Challenge Cup final against the Sharks at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Friday.

Skivington is bracing for an abrasive evening in London against the men from Durban, who have several Springboks on their books.

Like the Cherry and Whites, the Sharks have struggled in their domestic competition and are currently in 13th place on the United Rugby Championship table with one round to go.

Tackling the Springbok-laden Sharks

Gloucester turned their attention to the Challenge Cup after nine successive Premiership defeats between late October and early January but the West Country club now has the opportunity to win a third Challenge Cup title after defeating London Irish in 2006 and Edinburgh in 2015, losing their two other finals to Stade Francais (2017) and Cardiff (2018).

They face another stiff challenge on Friday with Rugby World Cup winners Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am, Ox Nche, Vincent Koch and Eben Etzebeth all set to feature in the final.

“They have got a lot of high-profile players, a lot of guys who can do things out of nowhere, which goes from back-line players to Etzebeth in the second-row and World Cup-winning front-rowers,” Gloucester director of rugby Skivington said.

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“They have got a lot of guys who can change a game in a moment, and we have to be ready for that. They are a big opposition with lots of household names.

“Like us, their league campaign hasn’t gone to plan, so both teams have a lot to play for.

“There is no getting away from the physicality with the Sharks. Guys like Etzebeth are very big, powerful men, and if you are not ready for that physicality battle it is going to be a long day.

“We pride ourselves on our set-piece and we work really hard on it, and so do they. It is a South African trait to have a very strong set-piece, so I expect that to be a very competitive area of the game.”

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Champions Cup qualification and two titles

The Cherry and Whites have won five of their 18 Premiership matches, and suffered a 90-0 defeat to Northampton Saints, but a victory on Friday will mean that they qualify for next season’s Investec Champions Cup and end this campaign with two trophies after winning the Premiership Rugby Cup.

“The objective is to bring more silverware to Gloucester,” he added. “You get to a final and then you have just got to throw everything at it.

“We put our eggs in the basket of going for these two cups, which is why it makes it a big week for us.

Who will win the Challenge Cup?


“It is tough picking a team for a final. The whole squad has contributed one way or another to getting us to the final.

“We sent quite a young team to Tbilisi (Gloucester beat Black Lion 15-10 in their opening Challenge Cup match), and those guys delivered a tough game for us.

“Everyone has had a hand in it, and it does make it a challenge getting the balance right for this team that we play on Friday.”

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