free hit counter code OPINION: Sharks must use Bulls URC clash to lay a marker for next season –

OPINION: Sharks must use Bulls URC clash to lay a marker for next season

After a season of ups and downs, the Sharks will be looking to close their United Rugby Championship campaign on a high when they host the Bulls at Durban’s Kings Park Stadium on Saturday.

John Plumtree’s charges have had a forgettable season in the URC, and that pushed them to go all out in the Challenge Cup, which they won last week by defeating English Premiership side Gloucester in London.

And although the Challenge Cup win has been the Sharks’ silver lining this season, we cannot dismiss the dismal showing in the URC, not for a team with so many star performers in it and a coach with plenty of international experience.

URC woes

The team not only took time to adjust to the style of play Plumtree and Co wanted to implement, but somewhat surprisingly the team was said to have had zero culture as well.

The arrival of their Springbok players following their Rugby World Cup trophy tour did little to help the team in arresting their slump in the URC as the defeats kept on piling up, with the Sharks losing 10 of their opening 11 games, putting them out of the running for the playoffs.

The side from Durban have improved recently though, with the team starting to get a grip on the new system and following the emergence of the likes of flyhalf Siya Masuku and youngster Ethan Hooker.

Since March the Sharks have won three games and lost another three, leaving them in 13th place on the URC points table with 25 points.

Opportunity to show what is to come

So while this season’s URC has been bad for the Sharks, Saturday’s derby showdown with the Bulls is an opportunity for them to lay down a marker for next season.

The fact that the Challenge Cup win secured them qualification to the Champions Cup next season is a massive bonus, while the incoming World Cup-winning Springboks Trevor Nyakane and Andre Esterhuizen, as well as Leinster lock Jason Jenkins, and Lions duo Jordan Hendrikse and Emmanuel Tshituka, will further boost Plumtree’s team.

A win over the Bulls on Saturday will show the Sharks have every intention of competing in next season’s URC campaign, and improving this season’s results.

They’ve certainly got the quality, depth and backing to be a title contender and in the 2024/25 season let’s hope they show the rugby world what they’re made of.

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