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By Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sports Reporter

Challenge Cup semi-final berth brings joy to Sharks faithful

"We have a couple of big games before we get to the semi-final, but certainly we’ll have one eye on that semi-final."

After surviving tough times this season, Sharks coach John Plumtree is pleased that their progression to the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup has brought joy to their supporters and stakeholders.

Following Saturday’s 36-30 win over Edinburgh in the quarter-finals in front of their fans at Durban’s King’s Park, the Sharks made history by becoming the first South African team to make the last four of the Challenge Cup.

Happy Plumtree, happy Sharks

The Challenge Cup has been the Sharks’ silver lining this term as they have had a woeful season in the United Rugby Championship. Plumtree is happy they have been able to book a semi-final date next month with three-time winners of the Challenge Cup, Clermont.

“I’m feeling great, I’m happy for the fans and stakeholders here at the Sharks,” said a delighted Plumtree after Saturday’s win.

“They haven’t had a lot to cheer about (this season) but now they have something to look forward to, and it’s us playing a semi-final in London,” said Plumtree.

“It’s a big stage against a quality French side (Clermont), so that’s something for us to really build towards.

“We have a couple of big games before we get to the semi-final, but certainly we’ll have one eye on that semi-final. We’ll use the next two to three weeks to build our game,” he said.

‘Credit to coaches and leaders’

Tries from Lukhanyo Am, James Venter, and Bongi Mbonambi plus 15 points from the boot of Siya Masuku and three from Curwin Bosch helped the Sharks negotiate their way past Edinburgh.

Sean Everitt’s Edinburgh put up a better fight compared to their URC clash in March, where they lost 23-13. They led 16-14 at halftime on Saturday but the Sharks took control of the game in the second stanza to win 36-30.

“The players are happy. It was a tough challenge playing Edinburgh again a couple of weeks after (our previous meeting), so I’m just really proud of the coaches for the way they have worked and how much of their time they have given up. I’m happy with the leaders, the way we adjusted in the second half and got the job done, I’m pleased,” said Plumtree.

Squad rotation in the URC

The side from Durban will turn their attention to the URC again this week where they will go on a two-week European tour before their semi-final in the Challenge Cup. They take on Glasgow Warriors on Friday night and Scarlets the following Friday. Plumtree will use the URC games to rotate his squad.

“The URC is gone for us but we still want to do well every week,” Plumtree said.

“There might be changes this week; there are a lot of players that have had a big workload, like our front row and other players throughout the season. So we’ll get a chance to freshen some bodies up, which is going to be great.”

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