Jacques van der Westhuyzen

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen

Head of Sport

Challenge Cup final: Sharks must beware these five Gloucester players

It's time for the Challenge Cup final in London on Friday night.

The 2023/24 Challenge Cup final takes place at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Friday night. England’s Gloucester and South Africa’s Sharks will battle it out for Europe’s second tier club cup rugby title, with kick-off at 9pm.

It is the first time these two teams will meet. While the Sharks are packed with World Cup winners from 2019 and 2023, Gloucester are something of an unknown outfit, with former Lions player Ruan Ackermann the best known to South African rugby fans.

Here are five Gloucester players who the Sharks will have to look out for during their match on Friday.

Jonny May

The veteran winger poses a real threat out wide, as he has done throughout his career. He’s something of a cult hero at Gloucester, having worn the Cherry and Whites jersey over 150 times.

May knows his way to the tryline, and is second only behind Rory Underwood as top try-scorer for England, in 77 Tests. At 34, this will be his final outing for Gloucester.

Jonny May
Jonny May is a dynamic winger. Picture: Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images

Adam Hastings

The Scottish international flyhalf joined the team ahead of the 2022/23 season and has been an excellent acquisition. A real attacking threat with ball in hand, Hastings has made several try-assists and kicked 43 points in the competition so far.

His battle with the Sharks’ rising star, Siya Masuku, could determine who comes out on top after 80 minutes.

Adam Hastings
Adam Hastings will wear the No 10 shirt for Gloucester. Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images

Lewis Ludlow

The Gloucester captain and loose forward has enjoyed a wonderful season and features prominently in the stats in a number of departments:

He’s his team’s top tackler in the competition, he’s made the most turnovers for his side and he’s taken the second most number of lineout throws.

Ludlow is a player the Sharks will have to keep a close eye on if they’re not to be outdone at close quarters.

Lewis Ludlow
Captain Lewis Ludlow. Picture: Henry Browne/Getty Images

Ruan Ackermann

The former Lions loose forward was on the brink of an England call-up before the World Cup last year before injury ended his chances, but he’s still a player with big ambitions and is someone his team-mates will look to for guidance in the final.

The 28-year-old has got a big work-rate, he hits plenty of rucks and is a hard ball-carrier and will be keen to make his presence felt against his fellow South Africans.

Freddie Clarke

He’s not the tallest or biggest man around, but he’s got a knack to be a mean operator, be it at lock or flank and he’ll look to make a big impression against the star-studded Sharks outfit.

Clarke is Gloucester’s go-to man in the lineouts, is a player who makes plenty of tackles and scores his fair share of tries, too, so he’s a man the Durbanites will be very aware of in the final.

Freddie Clarke
Freddie Clarke of Gloucester. Picture: Dan Mullan/Getty Images


Sharks: Aphelele Fassi, Werner Kok, Ethan Hooker, Francois Venter, Makazole Mapimpi, Siya Masuku, Grant Williams, Phepsi Buthelezi, Vincent Tshituka, James Venter, Gerbrandt Grobler, Eben Etzebeth (capt), Vincent Koch, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche. Bench: Fez Mbatha, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Hanro Jacobs, Jeandre Labuschagne, Dylan Richardson, Cameron Wright, Curwin Bosch, Eduan Keyter

Gloucester: Santiago Carreras, Jonny May, Chris Harris, Seb Atkinson, Ollie Thorley, Adam Hastings, Caolan Englefield, Zach Mercer, Lewis Ludlow (capt), Ruan Ackermann, Arthur Clark, Freddie Clarke, Fraser Balmain, Seb Blake, Jamal Ford-Robinson. Bench: Santiago Socino, Mayco Vivas, Kirill Gotovtsev, Albert Tuisue, Jack Clement, Stephen Varney, Max Llewellyn, Josh Hathaway

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