Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Everitt’s Edinburgh will be stronger this time, says Mbonambi about Challenge Cup tie

The Sharks beat the same team two weeks ago, but the visitors to Durban are expected to be more settled on this occasion.

The Sharks are primed for round two against Edinburgh when they host the Scottish giants in their Challenge Cup quarterfinal clash at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday afternoon (1.30pm).

It is the second match-up between the two sides in Durban over the past two weeks, after the coastal team claimed a comfortable 23-13 win in their United Rugby Championship (URC) encounter at the end of last month.

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However, Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi is well aware of the threat that Edinburgh will bring, especially being coached by former Sharks mentor Sean Everitt, and with them set to field a stronger team than the one they previously faced.

Better prepared

“We know they will come here even better prepared than before. They will play a better team. We noticed last time that they were missing a couple of their key players,” explained Mbonambi.

“They had just returned from the Six Nations, so they will be fresh and more challenging this time around, especially with a coach like Sean Everitt. He knows how to prepare a team to come here. They are going to come back stronger.”

Mbonambi admitted that the focus for the Sharks will be on themselves as they look to continue their morale boosting winning run that has seen them come out on top in their last three games, against Ulster and Edinburgh in the URC and Zebre in the Challenge Cup last 16.

“We have to look at ourselves. We must make sure we know our roles and believe in the system and plan. Playing at home also gives us a bit of an advantage,” said Mbonambi.

“The mood in the camp is quite good. All the injured players who are coming back, you can see the difference they make. The road to the final won’t be easy. All we can do is focus on the next game and not look too far forward.”

Exciting youngsters

Mbonambi also heaped praise on the emergence of a number of exciting up and coming youngsters at the union, who struggled in the early part of the season without the Bok stars, when the Sharks had won just one of their first 11 games in the URC and were bottom of the log.

“It was a tough start for us and everyone at the Sharks rugby union knows that. It was definitely not the start that we were looking for (and we had) a lot of young players coming in and getting opportunities to play,” said Mbonambi.

“It’s the role of every union to get their players into the senior setup as soon as possible, to get them playing URC games, to get them playing knockout games. The more depth you have in these competitions the better you’ll do, especially looking at the Champions Cup.

“We’re all aiming for that but to get there you need a lot of depth. The way the Sharks are going about it, making sure they play those junior players and expose them, you will only get better once you play those big games.

“So I’m very happy to see young guys like Ethan Hooker and Corne Rahl putting up their hands because at the end of the day, some of us aren’t going to play rugby for very long.”