DRAGONS boss Dai Flanagan has challenged his players to rise to the occasion against the Sharks' World Cup winners to make it four wins on the spin at Rodney Parade and earn knockout European rugby.

Flanagan's men are highly unlikely to have a shot at a home tie in the last 16 after they lost 20-17 to Zebre in Parma on Saturday.

However, they will know what they need to do to qualify from Pool One by the time they kick off against the Sharks on Sunday (5.30pm).

They will at least need to earn a losing bonus point and will probably need to win against the South Africans.

The Sharks fielded Springboks Eben Etzebeth, Ox Nche, Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am, Jaden Hendrikse and Grant Williams when crushing Oyonnax last weekend.

They will travel to Newport with the motivation of making European opposition travel to Durban in the knockout stages.

South Wales Argus: DISAPPOINTMENT: The Dragons after their defeat to Zebre ParmaDISAPPOINTMENT: The Dragons after their defeat to Zebre Parma (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“It’s massive for us now,” said Flanagan. “We are three from three at home and we have the Sharks coming to town with some World Cup winners.

“It’s an opportunity for us to improve on Zebre back in front of our fans.”

The Dragons could easily have been going into the game three from three but conceded a last-gasp try at Pau in round two then wasted a strong start in Parma.

They led 12-0 courtesy of Cai Evans’ boot but paid the price for a lack of a killer touch in the 22.

“In the first half we controlled the game – it should have been game over at half-time,” said Flanagan.

“We were inaccurate in attack, but our game management was superb, and we didn’t give them much room to breathe.

“Then the inaccuracy forced the error, which forced the emotion, which forced the momentum. It gave them penalties and ins and that is how the game swayed.

South Wales Argus: TRY: Jared Rosser crosses for the Dragons at Zebre ParmaTRY: Jared Rosser crosses for the Dragons at Zebre Parma (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“Second half we couldn’t get into the game. We went 15 or 20 minutes without touching the ball and we tried something that we shouldn’t try.

“Away from home, there are no mugs in Europe. We have got to make sure we respect the opposition and to win you have to have a game plan.

“We executed quite well first half, but second half we didn’t see it. Our game management in the first half was way better.

“To come away from home and give them nothing to feed off for 26 minutes was a positive but the counter is the negative and it is huge. We have got to teach better, we’ve got to be diligent, and we have got to understand momentum.”

The Sharks game will be a last game for the Wales contingent that get Six Nations call-ups on Tuesday.

Two hopefuls, hooker Elliot Dee and back rower Taine Basham, will hope for club recalls on Sunday.

Dee has been troubled by a rib problem and wasn’t risked in Parma, in part because of James Benjamin’s strong performance in the New Year’s Day win against the Scarlets.

Basham has not featured since and under-par display in the Boxing Day hammering in Cardiff, although he was far from alone on that front.

His dynamism could earn a return to the fray against the strong-running, hard-hitting Sharks with the temptation to go with a six/two split of forwards and backs on the bench.