South Africa’s Sharks beat Gloucester to claim Challenge Cup

Siya Masuku kicked 21 points and controlled the game masterfully from flyhalf as South Africa’s Sharks defeated Gloucester 36-22 in the final of the European Challenge Cup at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Friday.

The Sharks scored tries through number eight Phepsi Buthelezi, fullback Aphelele Fassi and wing Makazole Mapimpi as they dominated Gloucester up front, particularly in the scrum, and kept the scoreboard ticking over with penalties.

The Durban-based side become the first South African team to win a European Rugby trophy, and follow on from the success of Cape Town’s Stormers in the United Rugby Championship in 2022.

Gloucester couldn’t live with the forward muscle of their rivals, but did score tries through locks Albert Tuisue and Freddie Clarke, and hooker Santi Socino, but they came too late in the game to effect the result.

“We knew it would be a forward battle, we knew they have a good scrum and lineout and we had to be at our best. We were today,” Sharks prop Vincent Koch said.

“It is Europe, it is a massive competition and winning it is special for South Africa.”

The English club failed to add to their two previous Challenge Cup titles and have now lost their last three finals in the competition.

Both sides took to the boot to test their opponent’s back three with high balls and it was the Sharks, with six Springbok World Cup winners in their team, who came out on top in that battle as they gained territory and set-piece success.

They were able to turn that into points as they led 16-3 at halftime and pulled away in the second period before Gloucester scored two late tries.

French club Toulouse will meet Leinster of Ireland in the European Champions Cup final at the same venue on Saturday.

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