Siya Masuku stars as Sharks stage unbelievable comeback to reach Challenge Cup final

FILE - Sharks head coach John Plumtree. Photo: Marty Melville/AFP

FILE - Sharks head coach John Plumtree. Photo: Marty Melville/AFP

Published May 4, 2024


Flyhalf Siya Masuku was perfect from the tee and kicked 22 points to send the Sharks to the EPCR Challenge Cup final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The South African club secured a comeback 32-31 win over the three-time winners Clermont Auvergne to make history and become the first club from their country to make an EPCR competition final.

Masuku might have kicked six first-half penalties for Hollywoodbets Sharks, but it was the French club who led at the break courtesy of a trio of tries.

Wing Joris Jurand twice went over in the left corner, the first made by a piercing run from flanker Peceli Yato and the second by a pin-point cross field kick from fly-half Anthony Belleau.

Then, with ASM Clermont Auvergne trailing 18-15, full-back Alex Newsome popped up on the opposite wing to dot down for his club’s third try, Belleau adding three penalties and two conversions to send the French club in 28-18 to the good at the break.

The Sharks had failed to get their attack flowing in the first period, and the game threatened to run away from them if they failed to kickstart it in the second period.

Things did not start well, a knock on from the restart immediately allowing Belleau to kick ASM Clermont Auvergne into a 13-point lead – but they would fail to notch up anymore points all game.

After Jurand was denied a hat-trick try by TMO, momentum suddenly swung the way of Hollywoodbets Sharks as their backline began to sync up and, with Bautista Delguy off the pitch due to a deliberate knock on, the South Africans finally struck for their first try with Vincent Koch forcing himself over and Masuku kicking the extras.

The Durban-based side looked to have suffered a huge blow when full-back Aphelele Fassi was deemed to have committed foul play when colliding with Jurand, who was chasing down his own kick towards the try line, but Bealleau missed the resulting penalty.

That proved costly; despite being down a man, the Sharks grabbed their second score with a stunning try from wing Makazole Mapimpi who had threatened down the wing all second half.

Masuku stepped up to kick the extras from the edge of the pitch, his eighth kick through the posts from eight attempts, to put the Sharks on the precipice of a spot in the EPCR Challenge Cup final.

The final 15 minutes were ferocious; both teams put everything on the line, but as the minutes ticked down it was Shosholoza, not La Marseillaise, which could be heard ringing out from the Twickenham Stoop stands.

For the first time, a South African club will compete in an EPCR final; the Sharks will face one of Gloucester Rugby or Benetton Rugby at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 24.