Three SA Clubs Gear Up For Fresh EPCR Challenge Cup


The three South African franchises in the EPCR Challenge Cup will be geared up for a fresh challenge this weekend as they enter round one of the competition, which will mark the beginning of the international season for the Toyota Cheetahs, and a mental switch from the Vodacom United Rugby Championship for the other two teams.

South Africa’s rugby faithful are in for an exciting EPCR Challenge Cup round as the Toyota Cheetahs meet Zebre Parma in Italy, the Hollywoodbets Sharks will make their competition debut against Section Paloise in Durban on Saturday, while the Emirates Lions take on Perpignan in France on Sunday.

The Toyota Cheetahs will be the first team in action against Zebre Parma in Italy, with the hosts returning home after a two-week tour of South Africa in the Vodacom URC, where they suffered defeats against the Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers.

This, combined with the match marking the Toyota Cheetahs’ first official top-class match of the new season, will add pressure on both sides to register a victory.

The Free Staters, who will participate in the competition for the second season, will look to put their expansive attack to good use against the Italians, but they will have to hit the ground running as Zebre Parma had two decent results at home where they played to a 22-22 draw against Cardiff and pipped the Hollywoodbets Sharks 12-10 before their tour to South Africa.

The Hollywoodbets Sharks, meanwhile, will set high standards for themselves in their encounter against Section Paloise after a disappointing start to the Vodacom URC in which they have registered only one victory in seven matches, especially with the team coming off a heavy 44-10 defeat against the Vodacom Bulls last weekend.

The pressure on them will be enhanced by the fact that Section Paloise, more commonly referred to as Pau, have enjoyed a strong start to the French Top 14 season, with the team currently in fourth place on the log with six wins in their nine matches so far this season.

Fortunately for the Hollywoodbets Sharks, they will have the home-ground advantage and will enter the match bolstered by the fact that they won their last home game in the Vodacom URC, the Durban conditions could count in their favour and with a passionate home crowd behind them.

The Emirates Lions, meanwhile, will have all the motivation they need to start the competition on a high note against Perpignan after an encouraging start to the tournament last season in which they advanced to the quarter-final and with the side coming fresh off back-to-back victories in the Vodacom URC.

Perpignan on the other hand have had a disappointing start to their Top 14 season with the team ranked second-last on the standings after only two wins in their nine matches, which will undoubtedly serve as a motivational factor to capitalise on their home ground advantage against the Johannesburgers.

The hosts will draw some inspiration from the fact that both their victories this season were at home, but they will be up against a team with increased confidence after two big scores (49 and 61 points respectively). This is expected to set the scene for a thrilling clash.

EPCR Challenge Cup match Information:

Zebre Parma v Toyota Cheetahs
Date: Saturday, 9 December
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma
SA Time: 15:00
Referee: Jack Makepeace
TV: SuperSport

Hollywoodbets Sharks v Section Paloise
Date: Saturday, 9 December
Venue: Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban
SA Time: 17h:15
Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi
TV: SuperSport

Perpignan v Emirates Lions
Date: Sunday, 10 December
Venue: Stade Aimé Giral, Perpignan
SA Time: 15:00
Referee: Adam Leal
TV: SuperSport