Lukhanyo Am hopeful side can rely on Saffas ahead of semi-finals

Lukhanyo Am
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Sharks captain, Lukhanyo Am hopes his side can rely on the support of Saffas, living in London when they face the French team, Clermont Auvergne, in the semi-finals of the European Challenge Cup on Saturday afternoon.

The Sharks are hosting the fixture at the Twickenham Stoop in west London and have already renamed the ground, the Stoep. After making history by becoming the first South African side to get to a semi-final of a European Cup competition, the Sharks are now aiming for a final.

The Sharks have set up shop in London, ready for a crunch semi-final against Clermont Auvergne. Am wants South Africans in London to turn the Stoop into the Stoep and create a home ground of sorts.

“The London weather has been really good to us this week, we really enjoyed it. And we hope this weekend a lot of people will come out and support the Sharks, making the Stoop our home away from home.”

Clermont Auvergne will be a daunting challenge, they have won the Challenge Cup three times in their history. Am and Sharks winger, Werner Kok, anticipate fireworks on Saturday.

“Clermont is a very physical team. So we need to step up our physicality going into the weekend and they also play a very loose game and we have to be very quick on the loose ball try to shut their offloads down. I think that will probably be the biggest threat.”

“We have prepped based on what we have seen. We have prepped for that but we know in playoff games maybe they will have a trick or two up their sleeves and I think that will be something that we will rely on our systems when it comes to the game,” says Am.

The final at the home of Tottenham Hotspur football club awaits the winner on May 24th, and for Sharks rugby, that would be yet more new ground broken, something, Kok believes is an important goal to aim for.

“I love playoff games. It is a very important one, not just for me but for every single player in the team. It is a massive one and then for the Sharks in general, for KZN, it is a good one to set it up for the final if we come through this one but I am sure we will.”

After a United Rugby Championship campaign to forget, the run in the Challenge Cup has saved the season, and given Am and all the other big-name players at the Sharks a clear sense of purpose.

“It has been a good competition for us and it really gave us hope because we had kind of a slow start in the URC. I think having a second competition kind of gives us energy and something different.”

The Challenge Cup semi-final between the Sharks and Clermont Auvergne kicks off at the Stoop in Twickenham on Saturday at 1:30 pm South African time.