In a landmark expansion, next season’s Heineken Champions Cup will include three South African clubs who have qualified through the United Rugby Championship (URC). We kick-start an overview of these teams with a look at Durban-based Sharks.

Stadium

Sharks’ home is the 52,000-capacity Hollywoodbets Kings Park Stadium, which lies in the Kings Park Sporting Precinct in Stamford Hill, Durban.

Major honours

Sharks, formed as Kwa-Zulu Natal Rugby Union (KZNRU), have lifted the Currie Cup eight times, with four titles coming since the turn of the century and the most recent in 2018. They have been runners-up on 12 occasions, including in 2021.

Sharks are yet to enjoy a Super Rugby triumph, but they have reached the final four times since the competition’s inception in 1996.

Head coach

Sean Everitt was involved in Sharks’ youth set-up for a number of years and took on the role of assistant coach in 2017, before being named Currie Cup coach two years later and then head coach in 2020.

Key players

Sharks’ squad is littered with South Africa internationals, the most famous of whom are flanker Siya Kolisi, who captained the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2019, and centre Lukhanyo Am, who also played a key role.

Fly-half Curwin Bosch totalled 138 points in this season’s URC, the joint-third highest in the competition, while Boeta Chamberlain, another youthful kicker, managed 69.

Hooker Bongi Mbonambi, who was also part of the World Cup-winning South Africa squad, was Sharks’ leading try-scorer in the URC with seven.

Prop Thomas du Toit and wings Makazole Mapimpi and Aphelele Fassi are further internationals, the latter two among the leading players in clean breaks and metres made in this season’s URC.

Versatile back Ruan Pienaar has stacks of experience. Formerly of Ulster Rugby and Montpellier Hérault Rugby, the 38-year-old has 88 South Africa caps to his name.

This season

Sharks finished fifth in the URC but were defeated 30-27 by fellow South African outfit Bulls in the Final Eight. They missed out on the Currie Cup play-offs after finishing fifth.