Dillyn Leyds is back ... and Stormers ‘Leggit’ happy to see him

The Stormers are familiar with La Rochelle's dangerman Dillyn Leyds. Picture: Olivier Chassignole / AFP

The Stormers are familiar with La Rochelle's dangerman Dillyn Leyds. Picture: Olivier Chassignole / AFP

Published Dec 15, 2023


After eight matches away from their fortress in Cape Town, the Stormers will finally christen their new playing surface when they face French giants La Rochelle in the Champions Cup on Saturday.

It will be their second match of the competition, but a first for plenty of their star players who missed the trip to England last weekend as they prepared for the Cape Town Stadium duel (3pm kick-off).

Those Stormers who filled in at Welford Road against Leicester Tigers did a good job of keeping the English club honest, but they just could not pick up a losing bonus point or two after going down 35-26 at the death.

So, the task will be on the shoulders of experienced guys such as backs Manie Libbok, Damian Willemse and Ruhan Nel, and forwards Deon Fourie, Neethling Fouché and Evan Roos, to get the Stormers’ campaign in the international club championship up and running in front of their home fans.

A win can also bring valuable momentum for the two home derbies before Christmas and New Year’s Day against the Bulls and Sharks.

Judging by how the recent Cape Town Sevens tournament and the football matches held at the Cape Town Stadium went, the refurbished pitch is holding firm underfoot.

That will be music to the ears of the Stormers’ forwards and backs alike when it comes to scrum and rolling maul time, and for the backs to play their running game.

Fouché, the stand-in captain for the Cape side in the absence of the injured Salmaan Moerat, said they are looking forward to making their “debut” on the new pitch.

“It’s a prop’s dream to have a lekker rugby field to scrum on, so we’re very excited about that,” Fouché told the Stormers website.

“We’ve got three massive scrum battles coming up over the next few weeks. La Rochelle, in particular, has a very good scrum. They put most of the Top 14 teams under pressure in that department and got almost a full pack of French international forwards, heavy guys.

“We’re going to have to be ready on that front as an eight unit, and be solid together and tight. It’s exciting for us, and hopefully we can go out and execute our plans.”

The Stormers are still unbeaten at home this season, having won their only two matches in front of their fans in Stellenbosch in the United Rugby Championship.

But this will be a different test against La Rochelle than what they’ve had playing the Scarlets and Zebre, who they’ve kept to seven points each.

Apart from getting their running game going, they home side will have to be defensively sound as their French opponents boast some dangerous and elusive runners in versatile Springboks Dillyn Leyds and Raymond Rhule, and fullback Bryce Dulin, while Australian lock Will Skelton, No 8 Gregory Alldritt, prop Uini Atonio and lock Pierre Bourgarit will do the hard running with the ball in hand among the forwards.

The Stormers have had to deal with scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow in Super Rugby, so they will know how dangerous the New Zealander can be should he take to the field.

Both sides have lost their first game and cannot afford successive losses if they want to make it out of their group in the tournament.

Fouché added that they’ll look after the two Springboks, but certainly won’t forget about the other threats

“Leggit (as Leyds is affectionately known in the Cape) has got a massive Stormers story – a legend of the franchise.

“We’re delighted to welcome him and Raymond back. We’ve been watching their careers develop overseas. It’s nice getting to see some familiar faces on the other side. But you want to get one up on them, because then the beers just taste sweeter afterwards.”