URC campaign still important for Challenge Cup finalists Sharks, says Warren Whiteley

FILE - Sharks assistant coach and former Springbok captain Warren Whiteley. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/AFP

FILE - Sharks assistant coach and former Springbok captain Warren Whiteley. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/AFP

Published May 8, 2024


The Sharks have moved on from their EPCR Challenge Cup semi-final win against Clermont Auvergne and solely focusing on their upcoming encounter against Benetton in the United Rugby Championship.

That’s the word from assistant coach Warren Whiteley, who feels they still have a lot to play for in the URC.

Last weekend’s historic win at the Stoop in London meant the Sharks became the first South African team to reach a European final, where they will take on Gloucester, who beat Benetton in Saturday’s other semi-final.

Such an achievement would naturally be a distraction, especially with the URC campaign still on going. And with three rounds of games left in that competition remaining, the men from Durban have only pride to play for after a difficult season.

Be that as it may, while they have little to play for in the URC, Whiteley feels this weekend’s upcoming clash against Benetton will be the perfect opportunity to fix a few things that went wrong in the semi-final.

“This format with the URC, and us being in the EPCR, reaching this stage of the competition is new to all South African teams. What’s really important is we’ve finished off our review of Clermont and we’ve now moved on to Benetton,” Whiteley said on Wednesday.

“Benetton is really important for us and that’s where our focus lies at the moment.”

In last weekend’s clash against Clermont, the Sharks fell into their usual habits and allowed their opponents to get away from them. However, a second half fightback saw them claw their way back into the game, and eventually prevail.

“What we made clear this morning is we did our review of the game and there were definitely things we felt in our game that we need to work on and be better at,” said the former Springbok captain.

“This weekend, even though it’s a different competition, it gives us an opportunity to be better. We know we will need to be better come that final and that’s why our focus is solely now on Benetton.

“For them having played Gloucester last weekend, it’s a great test for us to be better than what we were against Clermont and improve on areas of our game that we want to improve on.”

Another issue the Sharks have had to deal with is the travel. Last weekend’s game was played in London. This Saturday they’re hosting Benetton in Durban, and will have to be back in the English capital two weeks later for the Challenge Cup final.

Regardless, Whiteley said they will not be tinkering too much with their starting line-up as their season reaches its business end.

“We want to keep building some continuity. There’s still a couple of games left of the season so it’s important for us to keep testing those combinations, get better within our systems and processes, and that’s what we’re setting out to do against Benetton.

“It’s a challenging week, having travelled, but I think the boys have recovered nicely, have got some rest and now we focus on the challenge that’s ahead.”

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