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Sharks claim Europe 'not a level playing field' despite Challenge Cup win

Bongi Mbonambi of Sharks drinks beer with the fans as he celebrates winning the EPCR Challenge Cup Final match between Gloucester Rugby and Hollywoodbets Sharks at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 24, 2024 in London, England.(Photo by Gaspafotos/MB Media/Getty Images)

Sharks head coach John Plumtree said a lot still needs to be done to ensure that South African teams do not face logistical issues in future European tournaments.

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Plumtree’s side stormed to a 36-22 victory over Gloucester in Friday’s Challenge Cup Final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.

That victory provided a silver lining to a challenging season, which has seen the team from Durban fall out of the United Rugby Championship play-off race quite early with just four wins from 17 matches ahead of next weekend’s final round.

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John Plumtree on the challenges SA teams face when heading to Europe

Sharks head coach John Plumtree said a lot still needs to be done to ensure that South African teams do not face logistical issues in future European tournaments.

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John Plumtree on the challenges SA teams face when heading to Europe

Sharks head coach John Plumtree said a lot still needs to be done to ensure that South African teams do not face logistical issues in future European tournaments.

While his team was in a celebratory mood after Friday’s Challenge Cup success, Plumtree sent a reminder to the organisers of the European competitions about helping the SA teams become more competitive.

“This is not an easy competition for the South African teams,” said Plumtree.

“There is a lot of travelling.

“We are in it, and we are competing well, but a few things need to be ironed out in terms of levelling it up a little bit.

“This is our fourth trip up here [to the Northern Hemisphere] this year and I think we have been away from home for about three months, so that is not a level playing field.

Challenge Cup

Pool 1
P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
Sharks
4
3
1
0
17
2
Pau
4
3
1
0
12
3
Cheetahs
4
2
2
0
11
4
Zebre
4
2
2
0
10
5
Gwent Dragons
4
1
3
0
7
6
Oyonnax
4
1
3
0
6
Pool 2
P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
Benetton
4
3
1
0
15
2
Montpellier
4
3
1
0
14
3
Ospreys
4
3
1
0
14
4
Lions
4
2
2
0
10
5
Newcastle
4
1
3
0
5
6
Perpignan
4
0
4
0
0
Pool 3
P
W
L
D
PF
PA
PD
BP T
BP-7
BP
Total
1
Gloucester
4
4
0
0
17
2
Clermont
4
3
1
0
15
3
Edinburgh
4
2
2
0
11
4
Castres
4
2
2
0
10
5
Black Lion
4
1
3
0
5
6
Scarlets
4
0
4
0
0
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“They need to look at how they can make this competition better.

“For me, it’s better than Super Rugby and I’ve been involved in that for a long time.

“However, there is a lot of logistical stuff that needs to be sorted out. Hopefully, it will be done in the next year or two.”

Meanwhile, delving into the detail of their game plan in that victory over Gloucester, Plumtree added: “We wanted to apply a lot of pressure up-front because we knew it would probably be their strength, so by taking that away, we knew we would have a good chance.

“I thought the scrum was outstanding, and the front row’s drive was very good, and they earned the rewards for it. So was the pressure game from our kicking game.

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“A lot of it was based around scoreboard pressure, which we had to keep building on, and credit to the guys for sticking to the plan.”

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Comments

24 Comments
l
leon 21 days ago

“This is our fourth trip up here [to the Northern Hemisphere] this year and I think we have been away from home for about three months, so that is not a level playing field.”

Don’t sign up to a European competition then complain you have to go to Europe a lot

D
Desiree 22 days ago

Wow I never knew that rugby is becoming football….. seriously a penalty try and yellow card for a try saving tackle. Geez this is beginning to get stupid now.

J
Jon 23 days ago

Very interesting that he doesn’t consider URC the mirror of Super Rugby but the rather the EPRC. He doesn’t think URC has the best european teams, like the recently had New Zealand teams in SR, to pit themselves against?

Or is he just meaning that despite all the complaints the travel time is still less than SR?

S
Snash 23 days ago

SA is (geographically) isolated and while winning hardly plays the most attractive brand of rugby. SA is in the EU in terms of time zone so broadcasting works and the rest should follow. However, one suspects - because EU teams have many more alternatives - SA is going to have to / will be forced to compromise on some fronts inc the logistical challenges which will mean for example - as it did with Super Rugby - that their teams will spend more time accumulating air miles (that they wont have the time to use). Short of jets that fly on the edge of the atmosphere it would seem that there is very little the SA teams can do other than more agreeable flight paths i.e. not via Doha.

B
Barry 23 days ago

The central irony being that the current Boks national team aren't compliant with current anti-doping laws! Love it. Sharks get angry. Grrrrrr

J
JPM 23 days ago

It would appear that the URC pushed hard to get the SA teams participating to the Champions Cup. And obviously the SA teams would like to be treated on an equal foot. But things are far more complex and cannot be treated on the sole commercial aspects. The health of the players must be taken into account. The Top 14 season is already far longer than the URC and longer than the Premiership. Therefore Top 14 teams are not keen at all to travel to SA. La Rochelle playing in CT and just after in Dublin before another Top 14 game is one example.
Therefore not taking the players health into account is disastrous and is going to lead to a lot of frustration from SA teams as well as Top 14/Premiership teams. URC teams have a light schedule and were keen to play SA teams. They should stick to that agenda and not try to force the other two leagues to agree on another agenda.

f
finn 23 days ago

he’s right - home semis for SA teams are vital in future years.

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