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European Challenge Cup

Super Sharks v Gloucester: Take A Bow, King Koch

Vincent Koch produced a prop performance for the ages to help power the Sharks to a historic 36-22 triumph over Gloucester in the European Challenge Cup final.

European Challenge Cup final

Vincent Koch produced a prop performance for the ages to help power the Sharks to a historic 36-22 triumph over Gloucester in the European Challenge Cup final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Friday, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The Durbanites weathered an early storm that saw the Cherry and Whites launch wave after wave of attacks on their tryline, with the men in Black and Gold refusing to wilt even after Aphelele Fassi’s yellow card.

Full of belief following their heroic defensive effort to shut out the English club in the opening quarter, the Sharks took control of the contest through their powerhouse pack, with their all-Springbok front row wreaking havoc in the scrums.

Clinical and commanding, Eben Etzebeth and company marched to victory to become the first South African team to win a European title, earn their place in next year’s European Champions Cup and finally clinch their maiden international crown after having lost four Super Rugby finals.

Our top three Sharks standouts were:

Vincent Koch

Koch was colossal in the London cauldron, going above and beyond in a legendary all-round performance to spearhead the Sharks’ surge to immortality.

The underappreciated veteran went from reliable to remarkable, running roughshod and living up to his “Mr Incredible” moniker in one of the most phenomenal performances by a prop you’re likely to see.

The 34-year-old was a smashing machine at scrum time, utterly dominating both Jamal Ford-Robinson and his replacement Mayco Vivas to help lay the foundation on which the Durbanites’ title triumph was built.

What’s more, he was a barnstormer with ball in hand, a relentless rhino who consistently powered over the gain line and set up Phepsi Buthelezi’s stunning opening try with a centre-like run.

He also grabbed a lineout that failed to hit the intended target and for the ultimate icing on the cake, he casually produced a classic 50:22. He’ll forever remember the night he ruled London, but it’s the majestic rolling touch-finder that he’ll treasure most about his Man of the Match performance.

Ox Nche

The man who gave us the famous line “Salads don’t win scrums” put on a monsterclass that underlined his status as the most destructive loosehead in the game today.

“The Cake Boss” feasted on the Gloucester front row, leaving them battered, bloodied and emasculated. After wolfing down his main course in Fraser Balmain in the first half, Nche had dessert in the form of Kirill Gotovtsev, goring him like a raging bull.

All in all, the Sharks forced four scrum penalties in the first half and two in the second. Finally full, Nche left the rugby restaurant with fellow starting front-row savages Koch and Bongi Mbonambi on 70 minutes.

Siya Masuku

The man who turned the Sharks’ fortunes around when he arrived on the scene a few months ago capped his meteoric rise with a masterful performance in which he maximised his forwards’ dominance and showed he’s the total package.

As if his match-winning Man of the Match performance against Clermont in the semi-final didn’t make enough of a statement, the red-hot flyhalf hammered home the fact that he’s a man for the big occasion as he punished Gloucester with his accurate boot, slotting eight out of nine kicks at goal (five penalty goals and three conversions) for a personal tally of 21 points.   

Far from just delivering off the tee, Masuku’s complete performance also saw him set up tries for Fassi and Makazole Mapimpi and is sure to further bolster his Springbok hopes.

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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