Travel headaches complicate Sharks and Stormers' quarter-final prep
Former France international hooker Yannick Bru has revealed the Sharks players and staff will travel economy class on two different flights from Durban to Toulouse for their Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final in France this Saturday. There are also travel headaches for the Stormers, who are travelling from Cape Town to take on Exeter in the last eight.
South African media are reporting that the team who defeated Harlequins in last weekend’s round-of-16 are yet to take off for England. Meanwhile, the Sharks face multiple stops to complete their journey, a situation that once again has highlighted the difficulties of involving the South African URC teams in Europe’s premier tournament.
Bru, who is now part of the coaching team at the Durban-based Sharks, told the podcast Entre les potos that the team were first stopping in Johannesburg before the group splits into two for different flights to head for France as a cost-cutting exercise.
One group will fly from Durban-Johannesburg-Frankfurt-Toulouse and the other from Durban-Johannesburg-Paris-Toulouse before the entire squad is scheduled to meet late Wednesday morning 24 hours after their initial departure.
The Sharks will be relying on Bru, who played 18 times for France, to provide inside information about the massive challenge posed by his former club. As a player with Toulouse, he won the French championship in 1999 and 2001, and the European Cup in 2003 and 2005.
Besides the travel, Sharks director of rugby Neil Powell also has concerns over the injury suffered by Eben Etzebeth in the 50-35 round-of-16 win over Munster that saw the South African side leak late tries.
Ahead of their meeting with Toulouse, who were 33-9 round-of-16 winners over the Bulls, Powell suggested what the Sharks would have to do to win in France: “To put pressure on the ball but also to be better on our defensive width and how we defend out wide. I don’t think we were good enough (last weekend). We do have high standards and set the bar high.
“It won’t be easy and we all know that when you get to the knockout stages, you have to be a lot more accurate. There is little room for mistakes and if you do make any, the opposition will punish you for that.
“With this being our first year in the competition, we have tried to create some hype and excitement around being in Europe. The vibe, energy and culture around this tournament is exciting but we know the further we progress, the tougher it’s going to get and how much more clinical and disciplined we will need to be.”
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