Etzebeth describes historic EPCR Challenge Cup win as biggest club highlight

rugby25 May 2024 05:40| © SuperSport
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Eben Etzebeth © Getty Images

Hollywoodbets Sharks captain Eben Etzebeth described his team’s convincing victory against Gloucester in the EPCR Challenge Cup final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on Friday night as his greatest club highlight and lauded his team’s character for making history by becoming the first South African franchise to win the European title.



The significant 36-22 victory – which sealed their spot in next season’s Investec Champions Cup – came off the back of a disappointing Vodacom United Rugby Championship season, where they dropped out of the playoff race after a slow start to the season. The double Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok lock said that was a big driving force going into the match.

Their defence was tested thoroughly early in the match, but the manner in which the KwaZulu-Natal side absorbed the pressure and took control of the match was nothing short of admirable, as they dominated the scrums completely and showed fantastic enterprise on attack.

“The motivation (to win) was more within the team,” said Etzebeth.

“To turn things around the way we did after where we were four or five months ago, was fantastic. There was a big drive to win the Challenge Cup as a silver lining to our season, which hasn’t been great.

“If you told us at the start of the season that we would win the EPCR Challenge Cup and qualify for the Investec Champions Cup, we would have taken it.

“The victory was special, and it felt as though we left our best performance for last. The guys were just incredible, and the physicality was great.”


Commenting on the importance of the victory, Etzebeth said: “At club level, this is by far the best memory. The last championship I won (at club level) was the Currie Cup in 2012, so it’s been 12 years.

“This is the first international trophy the Sharks have won and to become the first South African to win in Europe is definitely one of my best memories ever.”

Delving into the detail of their game plan, Hollywoodbets Sharks head coach John Plumtree said: “We wanted to apply a lot of pressure up-front because we knew it would probably be their strength, so by taking that away, we knew we would have a good chance.

“I thought the scrum was outstanding, and the front row’s drive was very good, and they earned the rewards for it. So was the pressure game from our kicking game.

“A lot of it was based around scoreboard pressure, which we had to keep building on, and credit to the guys for sticking to the plan.”

The Hollywoodbets Sharks have one game remaining in the current season against the Vodacom Bulls in the Vodacom URC next Saturday, and this victory will certainly motivate them to finish their season on another high note even though they will be playing purely for pride.