South Africa’s Sharks make history with EPCR Challenge Cup semi-final berth


In a historic feat for South African rugby, the Hollywoodbets Sharks secured their place in the EPCR Challenge Cup semi-finals, becoming the first South African team to achieve this milestone.

While the Sharks celebrated, it was a weekend of disappointment for the Vodacom Bulls, who bowed out of the Investec Champions Cup after a tough quarter-final clash.

The Sharks’ journey to the semi-finals was marked by a thrilling comeback against Edinburgh in Durban. Despite trailing 16-14 at halftime, the KwaZulu-Natalians delivered a sensational second-half performance to secure a 36-30 victory.

This triumph marked their fourth consecutive win at home and in the EPCR Challenge Cup, showcasing their growing prowess in European club rugby.

Sharks forward Bongi Mbonambi. PHOTO: Sharks, X

With this victory, the Hollywoodbets Sharks have set up a tantalizing semi-final showdown against French powerhouse Clermont Auvergne at the Twickenham Stoop in London on Saturday, May 4th. This historic achievement reflects the growing stature of South African rugby on the international stage.

Meanwhile, the Vodacom Bulls faced a daunting challenge against Northampton Saints in the Investec Champions Cup quarter-finals. Despite a competitive first-half display, the Bulls succumbed to a determined Northampton side in a one-sided second half, ultimately falling to a 59-22 defeat.

The Bulls started strongly, demonstrating intent and resilience in attack and defense. Despite missing several key players, they showed remarkable determination, with Akker van der Merwe and Sebastian de Klerk crossing the try line to keep the match tightly contested.

Cameron Hanekom’s early try and Chris Smith’s accurate kicking added to the Bulls’ first-half tally.

However, Northampton Saints proved too strong after halftime, exploiting their attacking opportunities and capitalizing on the Bulls’ defensive lapses. The momentum swung decisively in favor of the hosts, who capitalized on their numerical advantage when Hanekom received a yellow card.

Sharks winger Makazole Mapimpi (center). PHOTO: SA Rugby

The Saints showcased their attacking prowess, scoring a total of nine tries during the match. James Ramm and Alex Mitchell each bagged a brace, leading Northampton to a comprehensive victory and ending the Vodacom Bulls’ European campaign on a challenging note.

Despite the disappointment, the Bulls can take pride in their spirited performance and resilience in adverse circumstances. The Investec Champions Cup quarter-final highlighted the intensity and competitiveness of European club rugby, providing valuable experience for the Bulls’ players and coaching staff.

As the EPCR Challenge Cup and Investec Champions Cup progress towards the finals, South African rugby enthusiasts eagerly anticipate the Sharks’ historic semi-final clash against Clermont Auvergne. The Sharks’ remarkable journey symbolizes the growing global influence of South African rugby and sets the stage for an enthralling continuation of their European campaign.

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