SA teams will not be welcomed with open arms into Champions Cup

France's Antoine Dupont celebrates during a Test match

France's Antoine Dupont celebrates scoring a try during the Six Nations rugby match between France and England in Saint-Denis, outside Paris, France, 19 March 2022. Picture: Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA

Published Dec 9, 2022


Durban - French rugby captain Antoine Dupont is not too keen on South African teams entering what he fondly calls the “European Cup” and would prefer the Heineken Champions Cup to remain the preserve of the northern hemisphere teams.

Dupont, the 2021 World Rugby Player of the Year, was speaking ahead of the debuts of the Stormers, Sharks and Bulls in this weekend’s opening round of Heineken Cup action.

Dupont, who will be in the Toulouse team playing Munster on Sunday, said: “For purists, it’s a bit difficult to grasp.

“Our whole generation has known the legendary European Cup.  But it is a new competition now. It’s no longer the European Cup.

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“We have to approach it like that and try to see the positive by telling ourselves that we will play new teams. But it’s a bit hard to understand.”

However, Dupont says there is still the comfort of playing against some of the best provincial teams in the world.

“We feel that there is an excitement, a particular flavour,” he said. “Everyone wants to raise their level and the intensity of their game to be able to compete.”

On Saturday, The Bulls are hosting French club Lyon and the Stormers are travelling to France to play Clermont Auvergne, so it will be interesting to see how Dupont feels about SA teams after this weekend, especially if his countrymen lose.

Toulouse first travel to United Rugby Championship team Munster, who thrashed them the last time they played.

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“The last time Toulouse travelled to a full Thomond Park, it didn’t go very well. We shipped 40 points,” Dupont recalled.

“We know the value that the 16th man can have there and given the history that we have with them in previous European Cups, they will be ready to welcome us.”

IOL Sport