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By Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sports Reporter

John Plumtree: Edinburgh good test for Sharks before Zebre

The Sharks are putting their hopes in the Challenge Cup, where they are in the last 16.

Although his mind is firmly focused on next weekend’s Challenge Cup tie against Zebre, Sharks coach John Plumtree wants his side to build momentum when they take on Edinburgh in the United Rugby Championship on Saturday at King’s Park Stadium (3pm).

The Durban side have made it known that they have thrown in the towel in terms of making the last eight of the URC because of the bad start they had. Making the playoffs of the URC would have seen them qualify for next season’s Champions Cup.

So, to give themselves a chance to play in Europe’s premier rugby competition, the Sharks are putting their hopes in the Challenge Cup, where they are in the last 16. They will host Italian side Zebre at home on April 7.

Preparing for Challenge Cup

The URC has served as a dress rehearsal for the Sharks’ journey in the knockout stages of the Challenge Cup.

Last weekend’s 22-12 win over Ulster was a stepping stone for the Sharks, and they are aiming to keep the momentum going when they face Edinburgh.

“We are possibly out of the URC, and we are still alive in the Challenge Cup. I really want to do well in this Challenge Cup, and this game will help me prepare the team,” Plumtree said.

“Our focus is not around the opposition; our focus is on getting our own side running really well. We said the two games in the URC (against Ulster and Edinburgh) were about us getting cohesion, creating some competition and creating a side against Zebre that can get the job done.

“We know how tough this game this weekend will be. There’s a lot of Scottish internationals in their team, a lot of X-factor players, players that are household names. So it’s going to be a big test for us, but again I’ll say, building up to the Zebre game this is exactly what we want.”

‘Get set-piece, attack and defence right’

Going into this encounter against Sean Everitt’s Edinburgh, Plumtree wants to see his side create set-piece dominance with an all-Springbok front row of Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Vincent Koch, and be on the front foot on attack.

“I mean we were far from perfect against Ulster. I think if our set-piece functions well it can be in any contest for 80 minutes,” said Plumtree.

“We feel like we probably need to be better when we enter in the 22 from an attack perspective. We probably haven’t got the right amount of patience that we need. Building pressure and creating and finishing opportunities are still important to us.

“Defensively we were good last week. We want to keep building on those areas that are important to us.”

Sharks team

Aphelele Fassi, Werner Kok, Lukhanyo Am (Cpt), Francios Venter, Makazole Mapimpi, Siya Masuku, Jaden Hendrikse, Phepsi Buthelezi, Vincent Tshituka, Jame Venter, Emile van Heerden, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche

Bench: Dan Jooste, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Hanro Jacobs, Corne Rahl, Jeandre Labuschagne, Cameron Wright, Curwin Bosch, Ethan Hooker

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Sharks rugby team United Rugby Championship

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