Quick tap with Ben Loader

PUBLISHED: March 12, 2024

Our English wing Ben Loader chatted to us about integrating into the DHL Stormers squad, his growing love of Cape Town and the people, having a brother who is a pro footballer, his Afrikaans, Malva pudding and more.

Can you give us some insights into where you are from and how you became a rugby player?

I grew up in a town called Reading, just outside London.I got into rugby at the age of five or six years old playing at my local club down the road. By all accounts I loved it until we started contact, when I quit and decided it wasn’t for me. But in secondary school I came back to it and started loving it again. I never actually had these dreams of being a professional rugby player, I didn’t envision that from an early age. I just knew that I enjoyed playing, getting better and being with my friends on and off the field. That’s what pushed me to work hard and then it got to the point where I got my first contract with London Irish and I haven’t looked back since.

Your brother is also a professional sportsman in a different code. What has that been like following one another’s careers?

My brother Danny is a professional football player for FC Porto, he has been living over there in Portugal for the last three years or so. It’s been amazing watching each other go through our respective careers. Obviously being older I was a little bit ahead in that respect, but football happens so early that our careers have been sort of going in parallel. We played in the same stadium to start with; him playing for Reading and me playing for London Irish. We played in representative teams for England at similar times, which was amazing. Although it has meant we haven’t been able to spend the most time with each other, we definitely support each other from wherever we are. I’m so proud of him and it is just cool to see him grow in his career, because what he is doing is pretty special.

How have you settled into life in Cape Town? Which area do you stay in and have you got any favourite spots?

Cape Town has been an absolute dream, it is a very different lifestyle to living in London, but one which I’ve loved because the city is so great and the people have been amazing. I stay in Greenpoint fairly close to DHL Stadium. It’s a great area, I stay near Evan (Roos) and one of our favourite spots is Saunders beach in Seapoint. Getting back from training and heading to the beach for a couple of hours to do our recovery is nothing that I would have imagined for myself. The food here is brilliant and waking up and seeing the mountain every day is not something which I’ve got used to yet. The weather is also infinitely better, so that is something that I’ve definitely welcomed.

What are some of your interests away from the game?

I love my music, I can’t be without my AirPods or a speaker playing through the house. I have got very eclectic tastes, so it could be anything depending on the mood. I also love my cars and motorbikes. I have got a Jeep Wrangler in Cape Town, which I am absolutely loving, even if it is a bit heavy on the petrol. My motorbike back hom in the UK I am missing dearly, I think it would look great riding through Camps Bay or down the coast. Sadly I couldn’t ship that over, it was a bit expensive. I am also big into fashion and my food, so Cape Town is the perfect place to explore those sorts of things. Those are the other sides of me, because rugby isn’t everything and the city has so much to offer.

Any South African food that you particularly enjoy? Anything that you are still developing a taste for?

The food here is unbelievable, there is lots of stuff that the guys have got me to try. Malva pudding has got to be a highlight for me, Courtnall (Skosan) was the one to introduce me to it and it is unbelievable, just as good as everyone says it is. The braais as well, just the whole experience of braaing properly. My first one here was at Cornel Smit’s house and it was amazing. The meat here is fantastic and there is a whole range of stuff that I am still yet to try, but I’m slowly making my way through the list and I’m not saying no to anything.

How have you integrated into the DHL Stormers squad this season? What have been some of the highlights for you?

The integration into the squad has been really good, obviously being the only Englishman in the team isn’t without its difficulties. My Afrikaans is getting better, but still nowhere near conversational yet. The guys have been amazing, players, staff, coaches. They have made it super easy and have made me feel really at home, the transition has been as smooth as it could have been really. Highlights have probably been going down to Hermanus and Wilderness in my second and third week here for our pre-season camps. Although results didn’t go our way, the tour was a really good opportunity for me to bond with the guys in the team and make some strong connections. I really feel part of this squad, part of this family. Both the team and the people of Cape Town have welcomed me with open arms, which has been amazing. Seeing the love and support of the fans has definitely been a highlight for me so far.

Do you find yourself becoming the team tour guide when playing away in the UK?

Whenever we go over the guys obviously look to me to be some sort of tour guide, but my expertise is in London, so going to places like Leicester or Northampton or other places like Cardiff and Glasgow, the best I can do is ask the guys who I know who are there. I try and do my bit and help the guys understand a bit of the British culture just like they have been helping me with South African culture. Occasionally I have to translate some of the UK slang that the locals are speaking.

Has living in Cape Town and playing for the DHL Stormers been what you expected? Have there been any pleasant surprises?

I didn’t really know what to expect. The circumstances in which I found myself coming over were quite stressful, but I was determined to come with an open mind and just embrace everything that the organisation and the city and the country have to offer. It has just been one fantastic experience after another. It has far exceeded any expectations that I had in terms of the warmth and the kindness of the people, the beauty and the opportunities in the city and the rugby has been fantastic. The coaching here is second to none. The players, the staff and the coaches all care so deeply about the team and the city and they have really instilled that in me too. I just want to help do my bit for the DHL Stormers and the people of Cape Town and make Cape Town smile, which is our mission. That has been a pleasant surprise for me; the love and the support of the city for this team and our mission in turn is to give back what we can, which has been a fantastic experience so far.