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European Challenge Cup

European Challenge Cup Predictions – Semi-finals

The Sharks will leave nothing to chance when they collide with Clermont in their historic European Challenge Cup semi-final showdown at Twickenham Stoop on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

European Challenge Cup

The Sharks will leave nothing to chance when they collide with Clermont in their historic European Challenge Cup semi-final showdown at Twickenham Stoop on Saturday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The Durbanites are the first South African side to reach the semi-finals of a European competition and are determined to go all the way to earn their return to the Champions Cup.  

English club Gloucester tackle Italian outfit Benetton in Saturday’s other final-four fixture at Kingsholm. Here’s how we see things playing out:

Sharks v Clermont

Saturday, 4 May – 13:30

Top seeds the Sharks have put all of their eggs in the Challenge Cup basket and enter their biggest game of their season riding a wave of momentum.

They’ve won five of their last six games in all competitions, with the lone defeat coming away to the Glasgow Warriors when they fielded a second-string side.

John Plumtree’s men are coming off a 32-27 United Rugby Championship win over the Scarlets in Llanelli, which provided valuable insight into the type of tactic they’ll likely employ and work-ons for this weekend’s do-or-die clash.

With their backline still not firing on all cylinders, the Sharks found success when they reverted to their power game. Their Springbok-laden pack are worth their weight in gold and it’s safe to say it’ll largely be up to them to get the Durbanites over the line.

Overall, they’ll have to cut out the defensive lapses that have seen them leak easy tries and improve their game-management, as they almost let victory slip from their grasp last weekend.

Clermont made a real statement in their 53-14 thumping of Ulster in their one-sided quarter-final and split their two TOP 14 games since, going down 41-7 at Bordeaux and bouncing back with a 41-18 victory over Stade Francais last weekend.

The French club have won the Challenge Cup on three occasions, the last of their title triumphs coming in 2017, making them joint-record winners of the tournament. They have typical French flair, with their offloading ability being particularly troubling for defences.

They’re not just sizzle, though. There’s plenty of meat on the bone and they have a fair amount of edge to them. Having said that, the Sharks pack are on another level and by being pragmatic and valuing territory, they should power their way into the final.

Prediction: Sharks by 5.

Suggested Bet: Sharks at 1.95.

Gloucester v Benetton

Saturday, 4 May – 16:00

Similar to the Sharks, second seeds Gloucester have written off a poor domestic campaign to focus on winning the Challenge Cup. As former two-time winners, they know what it takes to get the job done at the business end of the competition.

They also have a big physiological advantage over Benetton, having soundly beaten them in all three of their previous meetings, to the tune of an overall points aggregate of 132-33.

The English club know how to breach defences, with their interplaying ability standing out, though they don’t have the best conversion rate and will want to ensure they make the most of every opportunity they create come Saturday.

Of the final four, Benetton are the outsiders but they shouldn’t be easily dismissed. They’re tactical and ultra-tenacious, as they showed by refusing to roll over after falling behind against Ulster away from home last weekend, ultimately losing 38-34.

They’d won four straight before that stumble, so they’re a team with good chemistry and won’t lack confidence. They’ll put up a solid fight, but Gloucester have more weapons and strong set pieces to control proceedings and punch their ticket to the decider.

Prediction: Gloucester by 10.

Suggested Bet: Gloucester -5.5 at 1.88.

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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