Union Bordeaux Begles vs Cell C Sharks Match Preview

The Cell C Sharks will face one of their sternest challenges in recent rugby history when they take on Bordeaux Bègles in tonight’s Heineken Champions Cup clash in France.

Adapting from a 30 or more degree turnaround in weather conditions is one challenge, so to playing a French team at their home ground, and against a passionate and hostile home crowd to add to the hype.

Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby Neil Powell pointed out that it’s been a challenging week, but an exciting opportunity for his team to grown and build momentum in this prestigious competition.

“We spent 27 hours travelling to Bordeaux, we also have a short week and we have the weather difference, so it’s not the easiest of weeks,” he explained in the build-up to the game.

“But we can only control what’s in our hands so it’s about how we emotionally and mentally approach this game. We know we’re here to do a job and everyone is focussed and committed to doing that job tonight.

“Our preparations have gone well and although we know it’s going to be cold when we play, if we keep talking about how difficult that’s going to be, then we have to just embrace the conditions and face whatever comes our way.”

While no coach wants to harp on about difficulties and challenges, and let that take the focus off the job at hand, Powell explained that every week is a new challenge, given weather conditions or the opposition.

“We analysed the opposition and look at the weather forecast and from there work out a game plan based on that and on how we want to play against a specific team in a specific environment. It’s important that we adapt from week to week and we’ve done that this week.

“It’s not about changing the whole game plan but small adaptations for things we want to do differently against Bordeaux.”

The conditions and travel challenges aside, there has been the loss of one player but the return of a couple which has been a real boost for the side.

“We’ve had a look at Bordeaux’s game against Gloucester last weekend and it’s important that we scrum well against them because it’s an area we feel we can target” Powell explained. “It’s a pity we don’t have Ox available, he contributes a lot to the game, but we have hope and belief in what Nthuthuko Mchunu is capable of and it’s a great opportunity for him.

“In terms of Lukhanyo Am’s return, he’s been injured for quite some time and it’s important that we get him back on the field and give him a fair bit of time off the bench.

“Will he shoot the lights out? He’s a quality player, we all know what a talent he is and he’s an x-factor player who can create opportunities from nothing. He might show a bit of rustiness but we’re keen to see him back and see what kind of form he’s in. It’s good to have him and his experience back and hopefully he’ll enjoy his 20 minutes or so on the field.”

A novel experience awaits many of the players, not all of them have played in France or in front of a French home crowd that really gets behind their team.

“That could pose a challenge, but we will rely on players who have played in France before as well as our international players who played here so recently, and in similar conditions.

“This is my first experience in front of a French crowd as a coach in 15s, but I’ve spoken to the coaches in our system who have been in this situation before, I’ve chatted to [Springbok coach] Jacques Nienaber as well, so we’ll rely on their experiences to navigate the team and the system through this challenge.”