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European Challenge Cup

European Challenge Cup Predictions – Quarter-finals

The Sharks will aim to take one step closer to European Challenge Cup glory when they face Edinburgh in the quarter-finals on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

European Challenge Cup

The Sharks will aim to take one step closer to European Challenge Cup glory when they face Edinburgh in the quarter-finals on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

With the Lions and Cheetahs having crashed out in last weekend’s Round of 16, the Sharks are the sole South African side left in the hunt.

England and Wales’ last remaining hopes face off in the first last-eight encounter on Friday night with Gloucester hosting the Ospreys at Kingsholm.

France’s Clermont collide with one of the two remaining Irish clubs in Ulster at Stade Marcel-Michelin on Saturday with Italy’s Benetton taking on the other, Connacht, at Stadio di Monigo on Sunday.

Gloucester v Ospreys

Friday, 12 April – 21:00

Second seeds Gloucester got past a talented Castres side 30-25 last weekend to continue their journey and have the potential to reach the final.

Having kept a low profile in the pool stages, the Ospreys made their intentions known with a 23-15 win over the Sale Sharks, but this is a significant step up in English opposition for them.

With their swift interplaying ability and Santiago Carreras’ metronomic boot, Gloucester should book their semi-final berth.

Prediction: Gloucester by 10.

Clermont v Ulster

Saturday, 13 April – 13:30

After crushing the Cheetahs’ dreams with a 27-22-win last weekend, Clermont face an Irish threat this time around. The French side shot out of the blocks against the men from Bloemfontein and held a commanding 27-3 lead but a drop in intensity and ill-discipline saw them give the South Africans a late sniff.

They’ll know a team the calibre of Ulster will punish them for any lapse in concentration. Steven Kitshoff and company trailed Montpellier by 14 points early on but ran out 40-17 winners in the end after their hosts lost Paul Willemse to a red card shortly after halftime.

Ulster’s abrasiveness and pragmatism are tough to deal with, however, Clermont have the necessary edge, along with dynamism and an excellent offloading game, to pip what should be a hard-fought battle.

Prediction: Clermont by 3

Sharks v Edinburgh

Saturday, 13 April – 13:30

Top seeds the Sharks have hit their straps at a great time, their 47-3 thumping of Zebre last weekend extending their winning streak to three. That hot streak includes a 23-13 home win over Edinburgh in the United Rugby Championship last month, which leaves the Durbanites confident they can do the same on Saturday.

The Sharks’ Springbok-powered pack will once again look to lay the foundation against the Scots. In flexing their muscles, they’ve provided their backline with ideal front foot ball to work with in recent weeks. Siya Masuku has been a revelation in the No. 10 jersey, emerging as the ingredient they’d desperately missed.

Edinburgh, who bounced back from their loss to the Sharks with a 33-15 win over Bayonne last weekend, have South African power of their own in Pierre Schoeman and WP Nel up front along with Duane van der Merwe on the wing but don’t quite measure up to the muscle of the Sharks, which should take John Plumtree’s men into the final four. 

Prediction: Sharks by 12.

Benetton v Connacht

Sunday, 14 April – 13:30

URC rivals collide in the final quarter-final in Treviso. Benetton managed to beat the Lions 27-10 last weekend despite Giacomo Nicotera’s red card in the 43rd minute and Malakai Fekitoa’s yellow in the 67th minute. It should go without saying, then, that discipline will be the key word for them this week.

Connacht aren’t the most consistent side, but they showed they’re a dangerous team in a knockout scenario as they picked up a thrilling 40-30 away win over Pau last weekend. That said, they lost 18-14 to Connacht at the same venue they’re returning to on Sunday just two weeks ago, so that’ll be fresh in their minds.

On top of the benefit of playing at home, Benetton have more patience and territorial appreciation as well as a sharpshooter in Jacob Umaga, who’s only missed one of his 18 shots at goal in the competition, making the Italians my bet to move on.

Prediction: Benetton by 5.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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