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Etzebeth excited for his ‘biggest club game’

While the Sharks were in ‘a dark place’ four months ago, they have a chance ‘to get some silverware’, says Eben Etzebeth.

Eben Etzebeth has acknowledged the magnitude of the Sharks’ European cup decider tonight, as John Plumtree looks to his Springbok world champions to ‘drive the passion’.

Test centurion Etzebeth will lead a Bok-powered side to tackle Gloucester in the Challenge Cup final at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Head coach Plumtree has stuck with the team that beat Clermont to become the first South African team to reach the showpiece of a traditionally European club competition.

Winning the second-tier Challenge Cup will secure safe passage back to the Champions Cup next season for the Durbanites, who are out of the race for a play-off spot in the Vodacom URC with one round left of the regular season.

Etzebeth is a two-time world cup winner and only the second player to win back-to-back SA Rugby’s Player of the Year awards, but the former DHL Stormers and Toulon lock has not won any silverware at franchise or club level.

Speaking in a Sharks conference yesterday, he told reporters: “It’s a big game for us, we’ve obviously not had the best of seasons so it pretty much comes down to this game.

“If we can win this game, we would’ve taken it at the start of the season… Being in the Champions Cup [again] next year, being the first SA team to win a European cup competition.

Team: Etzebeth to lead Sharks in historic clash

“But we know there’s a big mountain ahead of us. There’ll be nice things that will happen if we win, ‘first to win that and this’, but at the end of the day there’s a team on the other side who wants it just as much.

“Four months ago it was really a dark place at the Sharks but we’ve got better and we have a chance to get some silverware. All we wanted was a chance.

“It’s probably my biggest game at club level… It’s definitely my biggest game at club level for a South African team.”

Plumtree, meanwhile, has backed the senior campaigners to get the team over the finish line and cap off a rollercoaster first season for the Kiwi back at the helm of the coastal outfit.

“I’m a big believer in leaders taking over the back end of the week. So my voice goes quieter and theirs get louder, and that’s what we want,” he said.

“We want to encourage our leaders, guys who’ve been in this position many times before, to take over at this stage of the week and really drive the passion that we’re going to need to win this final.

“I’m expecting it to be a very physical contest and mentally, we’ve got to be in the right space for that.

Also: Saffa bruiser to front Sharks in finale

“It’s not a Test match … but there’s a theme that it’s a Test match for us. We’ve got some players in the team who wear a Springbok jersey but we’ve some who don’t, so it’s pretty exciting for everyone. So I’m expecting my players, like my Springboks, to have a massive game tomorrow.”

“We haven’t had the best seasons in the URC and targeted this competition quite a while ago, and there’s a lot of expectation… from our fans, and we do have a consortium of owners that are ambitious and want us to do well. And we do want to do well for them,” Plumtree added.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of finals with different teams and the next one is the most exciting one. I just feel really privileged and honoured to be here.”

The post Eben excited for his ‘biggest club game’ ever appeared first on SA Rugby magazine.

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