Loader ready to fire

PUBLISHED: February 15, 2024

Ben Loader feels right at home in the DHL Stormers backline as the Englishman embraces new challenges and exciting opportunities.

The former London Irish sensation has thrived in the DHL Stormers’ dynamic style of play this season. Loader’s explosive running and proficiency on the wing have added a fresh dimension to the backline and a run of midfield injuries in the first half of the campaign showcased his versatility as he deputised at outside centre.

Loader is set to feature in the coastal derby between the DHL Stormers and Hollywoodbets Sharks in Durban on Saturday when the Vodacom URC resumes after a three-week break, and the 25-year-old can’t wait to experience the rivalry at Hollywoodbets Kings Park for the first time.

“Playing against these teams is a new experience; before this season the only SA side I’d ever played against was the DHL Stormers. But getting to play the Hollywoodbets Sharks in Durban, and then the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, I’m super excited,” he said.

“Facing world-class opponents with World Cup winners across both teams, I’m looking at it with fresh eyes and relishing the opportunity.”

Loader’s ability to connect with local playmakers Manie Libbok, Damian Willemse and Leolin Zas has been a testament to his adaptability and the camaraderie within the backline.

“Cape Town has become a real home for me, and the guys in the backline make it real easy to link up with. We’ve got real star quality,” Loader noted.

“Damian, Warrick [Gelant], Suleiman [Hartzenberg], Angelo [Davids]… we all work really well together and have a real similar mindset when it comes to attacking and playing with freedom and trying to get each other in space.

“And guys like Manie, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Jurie Matthee, Jean-Luc du Plessis… they’ll find you if you’re in space with a cross-field kick or a pass and I just want to be on the end of it and do my best when I get the ball.”

Able to also play fullback, Loader’s move to outside centre both challenged and enhanced his game.

“Playing 13 was a very new experience! Assistant coaches Dawie Snyman and Norman Laker backed me all the way, and I really enjoyed it,” Loader reflected.

“I am more at home on the wing but it’s nice to know I’m an option and can fill in wherever the team needs me on the pitch.”

With Willemse and Libbok resting this weekend, Loader embraces the role of a senior player, drawing from his experience overseas.

“Coming from London Irish where I earned almost a 100 caps, I was one of the more experienced players, so I’m excited for the responsibility and hopefully I can bring that here to the DHL Stormers now that I’m more comfortable and settled,” he stated.

As the team eyes success in the Vodacom URC and Investec Champions Cup, Loader emphasises their focus on improvement: “We feel like we’re not yet performing at full capacity, but still winning games, so we’re really trying to hone in on what we can improve and what’s worked well for us so far.”