Old Europe challenged the new world

Dominic McKay, president of the EPCR, said last week that the former European races were held. It was natural for these teams to go to the Champions Cup.

They pose a real threat. And perhaps the French and Irish teams are likely to weaken the dominance that they have exercised in the old continent in recent seasons… Rugby has won the world championship three times (1995, 2007, 2019), the southern states – Africans proved – if necessary – last season in the URC ( the former Celtic League) the degree of their competitiveness during their first involvement.

Books in stock

Relegated directly from Super Rugby, they were unable to prevent the mighty Leinster from finishing the regular season in first place. But they still advanced to the finals with a poster that the Stormers won at the expense of the Bulls. Not bad for a test…

“Last year South African clubs saw the season as a test” Yannick Bru

“The South African clubs will be very determined when the time comes to start the Euros without any hesitation,” said Yannick Bru, Durban Sharks assistant manager who was appointed manager at UBB at the end of the season. : “Last year, South African clubs saw the season as a test to compete at European level. We have seen that they are already very competitive. This year, the ambition of all the franchises is indeed to bring back trophies, especially in the Champions Trophy. Ambition is complete. »

After nine contested days, the Bulls and Stormers, who will face Lyon and Clermont respectively, complete the URC podium once again behind the inevitable Leinster. These are the two most successful institutions. With two games to go, the Sharks are back in 10th place when they face UBB. Boxing’s mainstay, this state is suffering from the comings and goings of key figures…

Travel, instructions for use

SAMPLE OF UBB Lyon, who left Pretoria on Monday, opened the tour of South Africa for the French clubs. If they take on the Sharks for the first time on Saturday, December 16, Bordelais will follow suit on January 14 in turn when they travel to Durban. A journey of about 24 hours awaits the Bordeaux delegation (read the infographic). A squad of 47: 29 players, 14 staff members and one dedicated communications person. The program has not yet been suspended, but it will be largely devoted to recovery a day after Bayonne’s Top 14 reception. The return will take place on Sunday, the day after the meeting, for the scheduled arrival in Bordeaux on Monday. The price of such a trip? Almost 30,000 euros. The amount may seem substantial. If it’s not the duration that’s different, it’s within the standards of other trips in the Champions Cup. EPCR supports part of it.

Their strengths? First of all, teams with referent names in Springbok form: Siya Kolisi, Bongi Mbonambi, Eben Etzebeth, Lukhanyo Am or even Makazole Mapimpi thrive in Durban. Steven Kitshoff or Damian Willemse wear the colors of the Stormers. The electric Kurt-Lee Arendse that the French (re)discovered during the November tour revives the Bulls offense… Incomplete list.

The call of the season

Vital forces are given to the service of direct play, ventilated by a real desire for action. “South African teams will bring a new flavor to the competition,” said Handre Pollard, who currently plays for “Leicester”. Physical dimension makes the difference between the top four or five teams in the Champions Cup. It is innate in us. »

However, his compatriots will have to overcome one trap: the climate. Due to the elementary principle of inverted seasonality between the two hemispheres, summer reigns in the skies of South Africa. A small detail that will have all the significance for the organizations and the game: “It will be hot, humid and difficult heading into South Africa in January, predicts the former Montpellier opener. And a week later you arrive in the snow in Europe! It will be interesting to see how the teams can match up. »

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