DHL Stormers geared for Stade Rochelais ‘Test’

PUBLISHED: April 1, 2024

DHL Stormers Director of Rugby John Dobson says that his team is expecting Test match intensity when defending champions Stade Rochelais come to DHL Stadium on Saturday for an Investec Champions Cup knock-out clash.

Having won three out of four games in the ‘Pool of death’ the DHL Stormers earned home advantage in the Round of 16, which will see them host the French giants for a second time in the tournament.

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In December a last-gasp touchline conversion from Manie Libbok saw the DHL Stormers claim a dramatic win and Dobson is expecting an even fiercer contest this time around.

“It’s going to be a Test match next week. They are one of the best club teams in the world, better than most Test teams. They would be in the top 10 of World Rugby’s rankings without any stress,” he said.

Dobson’s charges were forced to work hard for a 13-7 Vodacom United Rugby Championship win against Irish side Ulster on Saturday, which he says was ideal preparation for the highly physical encounter anticipated this week.

“Tonight will be very helpful for next week. It will be a different size of animal coming,” Dobson said.

“Physically, we were amazing. We kept smashing them in double tackles. But when we got the ball, we just hacked it away or kicked it out.

“It was a lesson for us. We tweaked our defence at half time, but it was a lesson for us.

“What gave us hope was that we were great physically on defence. It was tough,” he said.

The DHL Stormers boss praised Ulster for the fight they showed to push his team all the way at DHL Stadium.

“Ulster were outstanding. But the truth is that we butchered three or four tries against the Vodacom Bulls, at least five or six last week and today it was a similar, if not higher, number.”

“At least we were playing DHL Stormers rugby in the second half. It’s just frustrating to leave so many tries out there. It will be great preparation, but those first 20 minutes were tough,” he added.

Dobson admitted that he has some tough decisions to make this week ahead of what is the biggest game of the season.

“Selection will be a problem, fitting all these guys in. It’s a chicken and egg situation, do you choose to stop La Rochelle, by picking your most physical guys, or do you think you can break them open , which might require something else?”