Fourie’s return is a massive boost for the Stormers

rugby05 April 2024 13:33| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich
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Deon Fourie © Gallo Images

The DHL Stormers have been boosted by the return to fitness of ace flanker Deon Fourie for Saturday’s Investec Champions Cup round of 16 clash with La Rochelle at DHL Stadium.

Fourie has been absent from the last two Vodacom United Rugby Championship games against Edinburgh and Ulster, and while Nama Xaba, who is a more like for like replacement for Fourie than Willie Engelbrecht, did force a few key turnovers in the first game, Fourie’s absence was glaring when the Stormers failed to get their hands on the ball in the first half against Ulster.

The Springbok World Cup winner is also a talismanic presence in the Stormers team when he is present, and captained the side in the key games this season before the recent return to full fitness of the appointed captain, lock Salmaan Moerat. So his return is a boost for the Stormers in several respects as they go into the second game of the season against the European champions, who they edged with a last gasp kick in the pool game in Cape Town in December.

Coach John Dobson has signalled his intent in a few areas with his selection for this game: Ben-Jason Dixon’s return as the starting openside flank ahead of Hacjivah Dayimani and arguably the retention of Dan du Plessis at outside centre suggests the Stormers are wary of the physical threat La Rochelle pose on attack.

The two changes at loose-forward, with Dixon and Fourie joining Evan Roos in the back row, are the only changes to the pack that started the 13-7 win over Ulster a week ago. There is also minimal change at the back, with the rotation of Herschel Janjties for Paul de Wet at scrumhalf the only difference from last week’s starting team.


“It is a rotational switch, Paul has been good in the last two games but there’s not much difference between the two scrumhalves and Herschel is a Springbok,” said Dobson.

“Having Deon back is obviously huge for us. He’s had a stop start season by his standards. He was resting with the other Boks straight after the World Cup, but then he was injured at Loftus. He is a talisman and one of our leaders and a Rugby World Cup winning Springbok so it is good to have him back in the team.

“When it comes to BJ (Dixon), he boasts a phenomenal work rate, is one of the hardest workers in the team, and also brings physicality. For this game we also reckon that Hacjivah might be the game breaker late in the game that we might need with his X-factor.”

With French international No 8 Greg Alldritt, who Dobson rates as possibly the best in his position in the world, back in the La Rochelle side after missing the game played in Cape Town in December, and also a similar talismanic presence for his team that Fourie is for the Stormers, Dobson has no doubt that La Rochelle will be stronger this time around.


“La Rochelle are one of the strongest club teams in the world. As I said earlier in the week, if they were playing in a World Cup, they’d get quite far. But for us we have to accept that hosting two last 16 games in the two years we have been in this competition is an achievement, and it was an achievement to get out of the pool of death to get this far.

“I don’t think anyone is backing us to win this game. La Rochelle are a different animal to what we used to, they are going to play with more fire this time and because it is a knock-out game they are going to be really tough, and they were already tough enough for us last time. They lost in the final in the year before they started their winning sequence in the Champions Cup so they have won 11 of their last 12 knock-out games in this competition. That is how good they are.

"But what I can say is that if we do win, and make it two wins against La Rochelle in the same season, it would be a massive achievement that could even define our season. It will tell everyone that we are a very good team. That’s what we are playing for. We feel we have nothing to lose but a lot to gain from this game.”

Dobson felt his team played the wrong game against La Rochelle last time and is expecting his men to inject more tempo on proceedings this time around.

“We have to make sure the game is played at tempo, which wasn’t the case in December. We have a hard and fast field and we need to use that. We hope the referee will prevent there being too many stoppages and the opposition trying to slow the game down. A hight tempo and ball in hand game is our objective. We are out to play a typical Stormers game.”

TEAM: Warrick Gelant, Suleiman Hartzenberg, Dan du Plessis, Damian Willemse, Leolin Zas, Manie Libbok, Herschel Jantjies, Evan Roos, Ben-Jason Dixon, Deon Fourie, Ruben van Heerden, Salmaan Moerat (captain), Neethling Fouche, Joseph Dweba, Brok Harris. Replacements: Andre-Hugo Venter, Leon Lyons, Frans Malherbe, Adre Smith, Hacjivah Dayimani, Marcel Theunissen, Paul de Wet, Ben Loader.