No Siya Kolisi and Eben Etzebeth ... but Sharks still dreaming the impossible dream

Sharks director of rugby Neil Powell. Picture: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Sharks director of rugby Neil Powell. Picture: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Published May 6, 2023


Durban - Visualising your goals is an important psychological tool and you have to applaud the Sharks for packing sufficient clothes for two weeks when they left on Wednesday for Dublin for today’s quarter-final against Leinster.

The combative lock Gerbrandt Grobler said from Dublin that the Sharks were planning as if they are staying on for a semi-final next week.

Good on them for their positive thinking because nobody else is giving them a snowball’s chance in hell of advancing further in the United Rugby Championship. Even incoming coach John Plumtree says it will be “very tough to beat a settled Leinster side in Dublin, especially with the injuries the Sharks have”.

The loss of Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi indeed curb the Sharks’ grunt up front while the absence of Curwin Bosch is a blow given the lack of quality resources in the flyhalf department.

One wonders, though, if the door has opened a tad by Leinster naming a team that shows a handful of their star players are being rested.

It also does not have injured Jonny Sexton, the Ireland kingpin who terrorised the Sharks when they last played in Dublin. The visitors lost 54-34 after having been neck-and-neck at the three-quarter mark.

“What I can remember about that game is that we scored five tries against them, but I can also remember Jonny Sexton killing us and playing us out of the game in the last 20 minutes,” said director Neil Powell.

“We played some good rugby against Leinster the last time we were here and we have referenced that game in our preparations and used it to build confidence,” said Powell.

“It was not just that game, there were others where we’ve been good and showed we have the potential to put championship teams away,” Powell added.

“We were very competitive and stretched Toulouse for long periods of our Heineken Cup quarter-final, and although it ended up being a really disappointing result, we also showed in the first half against Munster just how good we can be.

“We have shown our capabilities, what we must just do now is stretch it to a full match. I wouldn’t even say being on the ball and focused for 75 minutes against Leinster will be enough. To have a chance against them we have to be there for 80 minutes. If we can do that then we are in with a chance and we might have a semi-final to prepare for next week.”

The draw against Munster in Durban in the last game of the URC before the play-offs all but closed the Heineken Cup door on the Sharks but they can still qualify for the next version of that tournament if they win the URC.

“Look, we know how good Leinster are, and we know it will be really tough to beat them, but we are in this game to win it and we still have hopes that we can go all the way in this competition,” said Powell.


15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Marnus Potgieter, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 James Venter 5, Corne Rahl, 4 Gerbrandt Grobler, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Ox Nche.

Bench: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Jeandre Labuschagne, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23 Nevaldo Fleurs.

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