It was an error-strewn first-half performance from the Durbanites, who undid the hard work their Springbok-laden pack put in with indiscipline and unforced errors, from knock-ons at crucial times and not finding touch with a penalty kick to the corner to struggling in the lineouts and restarts.

They trailed 13-9 at halftime as a result, with Curwin Bosch’s boot keeping the Cell C Sharks in the hunt. The first half also saw Lukhanyo Am make his much-anticipated return with the World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year nominee replacing an injured Francois Venter in the 33rd minute.

Siya Kolisi and company flipped the game on its head in the second half, taking complete control with their power game and improved accuracy. It earned them 10 unanswered points and a 19-13 lead before a soft penalty gave Bordeaux a gift three points and set up a tense final 13 minutes.

The visitors lost Werner Kok to a yellow card in the fifth minute for a dangerous, suplex-like cleanout on Jean-Baptiste Dubié and it cost them the opening try as flanker Renato Giammarioli powered over in contact. Jules Gimbert, who’d missed an earlier penalty kick at goal, added the conversion.

Good work at the breakdown allowed Bosch to eat up some time and line up a 55-metre shot at goal, which he made look easy to put his team on the board in the 11th minute. The flyhalf further displayed his game-management acumen by popping over a sweetly-struck drop goal to make it 7-6 as Kok returned from the sin bin.

The place-kickers traded penalty goals before the Cell C Sharks shot themselves in the foot with a second slip-up at a restart, which resulted in another three points from the boot of the influential Bordeaux scrumhalf to extend their lead to four going into the break.

Neil Powell’s charges came out firing in the second half and took the lead through a converted try by Kok in the 50th minute following sustained pressure and good touches by Makazole Mapimpi and Boeta Chamberlain.

Bosch made it 19-13 with a third penalty goal in the 65th minute but a lapse in concentration saw Jack Holmes split the uprights to give the home side hope of a comeback.

However, a yellow card to replacement prop Christopher Vaotoa for not rolling away helped the Cell C Sharks hang on to make it two-from-two in the European showpiece.


Union Bordeaux-Bègles 16 (13) – Try: Renato Giammarioli. Conversion: Jules Gimbert. Penalty goals: Gimbert (2), Jack Holmes.

Cell C Sharks 19 (9) – Try: Werner Kok. Conversion: Curwin Bosch. Penalty goals: Bosch (3). Drop goal: Bosch.