Stormers must stick it to La Rochelle

Cardiff Rugby vs DHL Stormers. DHL Stormers head coach John Dobson before the game BKT United Rugby Championship

John Dobson’s Stormers team started the season well enough, but have now lost foru games in a row. Picture: Ashley Crowden/INPHO/Shutterstock

Published Dec 13, 2023


After losing four games in a row on tour, the Stormers need to show patience to turn things around.

That was the advice from veteran flank Deon Fourie, who will be itching to get back on to the pitch in Saturday’s massive Champions Cup showdown with La Rochelle at Cape Town Stadium (3pm kick-off).

John Dobson’s team started the season well enough, beating the Lions 35-33 in Johannesburg before thrashing the Scarlets 52-7 in Stellenbosch. But despite being in contention in all four United Rugby Championship tour matches, they lost 20-9 to Glasgow, 20-17 to Benetton, 10-3 to Munster and 31-24 to Cardiff.

It wasn’t so much the results, but rather the mistakes they were making that cost the Stormers victories.

Stopped the bleeding

They stopped the bleeding somewhat in an unconvincing 31-7 win over Zebre in Stellenbosch, and opted to keep their first-choice team at home for the Champions Cup opener against Leicester Tigers.

The ‘second-string’ combination produced a memorable display, though, and nearly pulled off a shock victory as they went down 35-26 to Handré Pollard’s team at Welford Road on Sunday.

So, it’s a bit difficult to understand where the Stormers are at right now. Will the ‘A team’ fire against the defending champions on Saturday?

“We always stayed in the fight and were so close to winning those games,” 37-year-old Fourie said on Tuesday.

“That’s where you can build character and a team to be stronger. Luckily it’s a long season, and if you look at Munster last season in the URC, they struggled in the beginning and were firing in the second half of the season to win the URC.

“The guys have bought into the plan quite nicely, if you saw the previous game against Leicester Tigers. We are getting there, getting all our structures in place – the guys trust the way.

“It showed last weekend as well … Sometimes during the first few games, we struggled to find our feet and the system, and the game plan we want to follow.

“That’s a key, especially with a big game like La Rochelle coming up. If you go a bit off-plan, they can hurt you terribly. That’s starting to settle in nicely with the team, and everyone is believing in what we want to do.”

Tough times at the breakdowns

Fourie can expect a tough time at the breakdowns, as La Rochelle boast one of the more fearsome packs of forwards in club rugby, led by Australian giant Will Skelton and French props Uini Atonio and Reda Wardi.

Normally French clubs send weakened teams to away games to ensure that they are fresh for their home ties, but La Rochelle suffered a 16-9 loss to Leinster in France on Sunday, and will be determined to triumph at the Cape Town Stadium.

“I know La Rochelle from back then (when he was at Lyon), and they were starting to build a nice squad. They have shown that over the last few years,” Fourie said.

“It was not what they wanted, losing at home, as they have a great record of winning at La Rochelle. So, I think they will come here and look to fire to get those points that they lost this weekend.

“They are the reigning champions. They have a massive forward pack, and some exciting backs as well. But the biggest key will be in the forwards, as usual. If they get momentum and are on top of you, it’s going to be a long day.”


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