Sowerby, Human want second Heineken Cup
Shaun Sowerby knows just what it takes to win the Heineken Cup and he is desperately keen to savour that special occasion again.
The former Sharks captain, who made his international debut for the Springboks against Samoa in Pretoria in 2002, helped Toulouse win European club rugby’s most prized silverware in 2010 after the heartbreak of two losing finals.
There are 74 players who can boast of owning two Heineken Cup final winners’ medals, one of them fellow South African and Toulouse teammate Daan Human, and Sowerby wants to join that elite band before they both leave the French giants at the end of the season..
Toulouse travel to Scotland to face Edinburgh at Murrayfield in the quarterfinals on Saturday, 7 April, which will be the biggest club game in Scottish history with over 30 000 tickets sold, and if Sowerby gets into the action it will be his 49th Heineken Cup appearance – one short of an ERC Elite Award cap.
“I was an extra-time loser with Stade Français Paris against Toulouse in 2005 and then once again against Munster in my first season with Toulouse so I certainly know the massive disappointments of losing in a Heineken Cup final,” said Sowerby.
“So to eventually do it with Toulouse in 2010 in the Paris final against Biarritz was great and I would love to experience that again. The culture and expectation of the club means it is essential we have good run and hopefully go all the way to another final.
“What I do know for sure is that only a few get the chance to even play in a Heineken Cup final and if you have that opportunity you have to take it with both hands.
“I am lucky enough to be at a club that is almost always there when the knock-out stages come and while the Super 12 – as it was then when I was with the Sharks – is also a great competition I can honestly say the Heineken Cup is an incredible tournament.
“The format of the Heineken Cup is what is so amazing as you can possibly have one chance to lose a match and still make it up and that means qualification for the quarterfinals usually goes right up to the last weekend in all the groups.
“You also find things changing week by week and that keeps it interesting right the way through and then you have what I believe are the unique back-to-back matches in December. Those double headers are so often between the two best teams in that group and I guess that makes them both extra special and vitally important.
“It is fair to say that the French guys perhaps put more importance on success in the Top 14 but for us foreigners we tend to put more importance on the Heineken Cup so the quarterfinal is a huge challenge for everyone.”
And while Edinburgh and Toulouse are clashing for the 12th time in the tournament with Toulouse 10-1 ahead so far, Sowerby is quick to stress that past form counts for nothing.
“Edinburgh are no where near the same team we have played in the past, the work done initially by Andy Robinson and carried on by current coach Michael Bradley and his team make them a very tricky draw for us,” said Sowerby.
“Murrayfield is a magnificent stadium and a wonderful ground, even if I was on the losing side there in that 2005 final, but while history may suggest that Toulouse will be favourites on the day we know full well that that will not be the case.
“At this stage of the tournament you are comfortable playing against anyone if you are home but if you are away you are always up against it and it is that much harder.
“The big thing is that we have qualified and although it is going to be tough and a big ask we did beat Biarritz away in the 2010 semifinals so we know what we have to do for another important win on the road.”