It’s sink or swim time for the Cell C Sharks as Munster arrive in Durban for a Vodacom United Rugby Championship final-round shootout on Saturday.
A roller-coaster campaign has left the Springbok-powered Sharks in eighth place going into the 18th and final round of the 2022-23 season.
A bonus-point win in last week’s try-fest against ninth-placed Benetton gave the Sharks five crucial log points and a comfortable advantage in points-difference over the Italians.
Though their place in the top eight is quite secure, the Sharks are hunting for better seeding and the possibility of a more favourable URC quarter-final matchup.
With Munster arriving on the east coast fresh from a historic victory over the DHL Stormers in Cape Town, the Sharks will need the power of their full contingent of Springboks.
Leading the way for the men from Durban is Bok skipper Siya Kolisi, who has assumed the club captaincy since returning from a pre-World Cup training camp.
Even though international commitments have limited Kolisi to just five appearances this season, he has made his impact felt in every single one of those games. The Sharks have lost just one of the five URC games that he has played in – away to Scarlets in March.
With the Sharks unable to secure a home playoff, Saturday’s game will be the inspirational loose forward’s last at Kings Park before he joins French giants Racing 92 next season.
However, Munster will be in no mood to hand Kolisi a winning farewell. The Irish club quelled the Stormers in Cape Town to become the first team to take a full house of points away from Cape Town Stadium since December 2021.
The last time Munster were in Durban was for the Champions Cup round of 16, when they were manhandled by the Sharks in a 50-35 loss.
“It will be a tricky one because we played them three weekends ago and they would have learnt from that experience,” said Sharks director of rugby, Neil Powell.
“But the beauty is that it’s in our hands. How we approach the game and what we want out of it is in our hands.”
Munster head coach Graham Rowntree did not paper over how disappointed his charges were with their performance in their previous visit to Kings Park, adding that they will take plenty of confidence from how much better they were against the Stormers.
“We had frank conversations after that game against the Sharks,” said Rowntree. “They taught us a few lessons at the breakdown and set-pieces, and we knew we would have to up our game there before facing the Stormers.
“The performance against the Stormers… that showed that we can beat teams like this. The South African sides are traditionally the power teams, and we have a lot of respect for how they play.
“I’m immensely proud of the way we started, and the way we stayed in the fight at the end.”
Photo: ©INPHO/Steve Haag Sports/Steve Haag