Stormers expect La Rochelle to ‘come with all the firepower’ in Champions Cup rematch

David Skippers
Ben Loader Stormers v La Rochelle Champions Cup 2024 - Alamy.jpg

Stormers wing Ben Loader takes on the La Rochelle defence during their Champions Cup pool match in Cape Town.

Stormers wing Ben Loader is preparing himself for a huge battle when they take on La Rochelle in their Investec Champions Cup round-of-16 clash in Cape Town on Saturday.

La Rochelle are the tournament’s defending champions and will face the Stormers for a second time in Cape Town after their previous encounter, during the pool phase of the competition last December, went down to the wire.

Close finish in previous meeting

The champions were the dominant side for most of that match but a strong finish from the Stormers – with Manie Libbok slotting a clutch conversion from close to the touchline – secured them a 21-20 victory.

The Stormers head into their rematch against the Top 14 outfit after being made to work hard for a 13-7 win over Ulster in a United Rugby Championship clash last weekend and Loader is braced for the occasion against La Rochelle.

“The Ulster game was like a Test match but this week is going to be even tougher,” he told the Stormers’ official website. “Stade Rochelais are double champions and will come with all the firepower that they’ve got.

“We know they’ll be gunning for us but we came out on top in the pool stages, and we’ll have our plans to cancel them out. And we’re at home at DHL Stadium and that definitely counts for something.”

The previous match between these teams saw Loader making an impact with a well-taken try before he was forced off the field soon after that, but he is relishing the opportunity to have another crack at their French opponents.

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“Damian found me with a great kick and I just had to make the run to the line. It was so amazing to score in front of the fans for the first time at DHL Stadium,” he said.

“Unfortunately I injured my shoulder in the act of scoring and it was a bittersweet moment for me, but I’m hoping to replicate some of that success this coming weekend.

“To have the supporters cheering us on for what will be a massive game, we’ll need all the support we can get.”

Loader believes the way the Stormers ground out their win over Ulster bodes well for them during the rest of the season in the URC and the Champions Cup.

‘Take them wherever they come’

“Saturday was a great win, obviously not the prettiest but at this stage of the season you’ve got to take them wherever they come,” the 25-year-old explained.

“This squad of players has this belief that we’re going to create opportunities, and they might come in the first minute or in the 80th minute but we know we’re a team who can create from anywhere.

“It’s something the coaches have instilled in us but we, as players, have that confidence and back each other that if we don’t stop fighting then we’ll definitely get that chance to find a way to win.”

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