Eben ready to tackle Gloucester


Eben Etzebeth is ready to go bare-handed under Gloucester when the Sharks play the English club in the final of the European Challenge Cup tonight.

Etzebeth, a veteran with more than 100 Springbok tests to his name, will lead the KwaZulu-Natallers at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.

“This is probably my biggest first-class game of my career; especially for a South African team,” said the 32-year-old lock.

If the Sharks walk away with the laurels tonight, they will play in the Champions Cup again next year.

The final is a welcome lifeline after the team’s bad footing in the United Rugby Championship.

“Four months ago the Sharks were in a dark place, but we started playing better and now we have an opportunity to win a trophy. We really wanted to have such a chance.”

Etzebeth will line up with Gerbrandt Grobler, while the Durbanites can also count on World Cup winners such as Makazole Mapimpi, Vincent Koch, Bongi Mbonambi and Ox Nché.

“This is a very important game for us. We are not having the best season behind the plate and the game can get our boat back on track. However, a tough battle awaits – Gloucester just wants to win.”

The match starts tonight at 21:00 and the action will be broadcast live on SuperSport.

Sharks: Aphelele Fassi (full back), Werner Kok (right wing), Ethan Hooker (outside centre), Francois Venter (inside centre), Makazole Mapimpi (left wing), Siya Masuku (fly-half), Grant Williams (scrum-half), Phepsi Buthelezi (eighth man), Vincent Tshituka (flank), James Venter (flank), Gerbrandt Grobler (lock), Eben Etzebeth (captain and lock), Vincent Koch (prop), Bongi Mbonambi (hook) and Ox Nché (prop). Substitutes: Fez Mbatha, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Hanro Jacobs, Lappies Labuschagne, Dylan Richardson, Cameron Wright, Curwin Bosch and Eduan Keyter.

Gloucester: Santi Carreras (full back), Jonny May (right wing), Chris Harris (outside centre), Seb Atkinson (inside centre), Ollie Thorley (left wing), Adam Hastings (fly-half), Caolan Englefield (scrum-half), Zach Mercer (eighth man), Lewis Ludlow (captain and flank), Ruan Ackermann (flank), Freddie Clarke (lock), Fraser Balmain (prop), Seb Blake (hooker) and Jamal Ford-Robinson (prop). Subs: Santi Socino, Mayco Vivas, Kirill Gotovtsev, Stephen Varney, Max Llewellyn and Josh Hathaway.