Fouche up for the challenge at DHL Stadium

PUBLISHED: December 13, 2023

Neethling Fouche is someone who relishes a challenge and they don’t come much bigger than an Investec Champions Cup clash against the defending champions.

Having missed last week’s narrow defeat against Leicester Tigers in England, the tighthead prop is set to return to duty on Saturday with renewed vigour to compete in the DHL Stormers’ first match at DHL Stadium this season.

Fouche is a steel beam reinforcing the DHL Stormers front row, and stepped up in 2023/24 to anchor the scrum in the absence of Frans Malherbe while deputising for injured captain Salmaan Moerat.

Acknowledging La Rochelle’s formidable reputation, the 30-year-old is excited to test himself against the champions of Europe in the first rugby XVs match on the refurbished pitch at the DHL Stadium.

“It’s kind of weird, being at the end of the year and only playing our first game of this season at the DHL Stadium now! But it goes without saying that to go out and play at our home stadium against a quality La Rochelle side is exciting,” he said.

“It’s incredible to know that we’ll have the opportunity to run out on Saturday in front of The Faithful.”

Fouche added: “It’s a prop’s dream to have a lekker rugby field to scrum on, so we’re very excited about that. 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.”

He was one of several key players rested by head coach John Dobson last week, among them also Damian Willemse, Manie Libbok and Deon Fourie, and Fouche extols the value of having the World Cup-winning trio back in the mix.

“It’s been great having those guys back, the wealth of experience, calmness and leadership that they bring, it’s nice being on the field and looking around and seeing those faces – it gives a comforting feeling,” he said.

“The Rugby World Cup feels that you get from them, it just inspires you, and the energy is also automatically higher at training and it’s exceptional having them back.”

Two-time Investec Champions Cup winners, Dillyn Leyds and Raymond Rhule present a familiar foe for the DHL Stormers on Saturday, and the speedsters pose a threat that Fouche is eager to neutralise.

“Leggit [Leyds] has got a massive DHL 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!”