South Africans storm Champions Cup quarters with added bite

South Africans storm Champions Cup quarters with added bite

South African sides the Stormers and the Sharks will compete in Champions Cup quarter-finals on Saturday, in a first for the country.

Makazole Mapimpi Sharks
Until this season the competition, launched in 1995 as rugby union turned professional, was reserved for European clubs. The Stormers from Cape Town, Sharks from Durban and Pretoria's Bulls made their debuts in December's pool stage.

The Sharks visits record five-time winners Toulouse in the quarter-finals, who overcame the Bulls in last weekend's last 16.

Siya Kolisi's side beat Munster last Saturday in Durban and face a long journey after numerous visits north during their United Rugby Championship campaign.

The difficulty of booking flights at short notice means the squad will be split into two over almost 24 hours.

"We don't complain, but the players' comfort comes second," Sharks assistant coach Yannick Bru told French radio station RMC Sport this week.

"It's pointless to say that we travel in business class," the former France and Toulouse hooker added.

Kolisi will be missing scrum-half Jayden Hendrikse and potentially lock Eben Etzebeth with injuries for the trip to Stade Ernest-Wallon, another set of flights which add to the tournament's environmental impact.

"Munster don't have world class players in each position. That is the case though with Toulouse," Bru said before facing the likes of Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack.

"I know that danger comes from everywhere and we're not favourites," he added.

Later on Saturday, the Stormers visit 2020 champions Exeter, who beat Top 14 title holders Montpellier on tries scored after extra time in the last round.

Stalwarts at the English club, including No. 8 Sam Simmonds and winger Jack Nowell, will leave Sandy Park at the end of the campaign.

The Chiefs' Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg will retire after this year's Rugby World Cup.

"Saturday doesn't win it for us but it puts us in a good spot," Exeter centre Henry Slade told the BBC on Monday.

"We want to send those boys out on a high and to do that we're going to have to beat a hell of a Stormers team on Saturday," he added.
- Good Friday -

Elsewhere, four-time winners Leinster welcome Premiership champions Leicester to Lansdowne Road on Friday in front of a restricted crowd of 27,000 in Dublin.

The Irish province filled the 52,000-capacity stadium for last Saturday's win over Ulster but they will have had just five working days to sell tickets for the fixture on a busy Easter weekend due to the tournament's scheduling.

Around 500 Tigers fans will travel to the Irish capital for a rerun of 2009's final.

On Sunday, champions La Rochelle will host three-time winners Saracens as Australia lock Will Skelton welcomes his former side to the Atlantic coast.

Fixtures (all times GMT)


Leinster (IRL) v Leicester (ENG) (1900)


Toulouse (FRA) v Sharks (RSA) (1400), Exeter (ENG) v Stormers (RSA) (1530)


La Rochelle (FRA) v Saracens (ENG) (1400)

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