The gap between Sharks' URC and Challenge Cup form

SPOTLIGHT: Springbok and Sharks prop Vincent Kich believes a disjoined pre-season is to blame for the gap between the Durban side's United Rugby Championship and Challenge Cup form.

The dual World Cup-winner said the Sharks had suffered from their Test stars being unavailable in pre-season ahead of South Africa's ultimately triumphant title defence in France.

In the URC, the Sharks are in 13th position with just four wins from 17 matches ahead of next week's final round.

in the Challenge Cup, John Plumtree's side only lost one game on their way to Friday's Final against Gloucester in London.

"The Springboks joining a bit later, we didn't really know what the culture was until we joined, then we knew exactly what coach Plumtree wanted us to do and how he wants us to play," said Koch ahead of the Final.

Koch also refused to blame the effects of long-distance flights in what are primarily two Europe-based competitions.

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Just as South Africa won all their last three games of the World Cup by a point apiece, including edging arch-rivals New Zealand 12-11 in the Final itself, so too did the Sharks defeat French club Clermont 32-31 in the last four of the Challenge Cup.

"The Sharks haven't won anything internationally yet, and for us that's massive," said Koch.

"And then of course playing on an international level, it's for South Africa once again. We want to walk away and lift the trophy and say that it was again for South Africa, and for the family, and for the fans, and for everyone, and the brand as well."

Victory for either the Sharks or Gloucester in the second-tier European Final would also guarantee the winners a place in next season's elite Champions Cup, replacing the eighth-ranked team in their league.

"If we do win this, then, I won't say the season then looks better, but it definitely looks a little bit better, you know?" said Koch.

"It doesn't reflect what we did in the first half of the season, but how we fixed it and how we finished the season, so for us, it's very important," added the 34-year-old prop, twice a Champions Cup winner with Saracens.

"Playing in Europe is amazing. I've been there with Saracens, but there for a South African team, it's a surreal moment."

Source: AFP

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