Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Stormers fired up for return to Cape Town Stadium

It is the perfect match for the Stormers to celebrate being back at their fortress, against the Champions Cup title holders.

The Stormers are absolutely fired up to finally be back playing at Cape Town Stadium when they host La Rochelle in their massive Champions Cup encounter on Saturday afternoon.

It has been over six months since the Stormers played in their iconic home stadium, when they were defeated by Munster in the final of the United Rugby Championship (URC), and it will be the first time for them playing on the resurfaced pitch which was installed during the off season.

In the Stormers’ seven URC games and one Champions Cup match so far this season, they have played only two of those games at ‘home’, however both of those fixtures were at their second base, the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch.

Perfect match

It is thus the perfect match for them to celebrate being back at their fortress, against the double defending champs of the Champions Cup, making it arguably one of their biggest games at the ground over the past few years.

“It is exciting stuff. We haven’t played at Cape Town Stadium (this season), so it is something we have been really looking forward to. There is a lot of excitement in the group and we can’t wait to get on the pitch on Saturday,” said Stormers assistant coach Rito Hlungwani.

“We watched a nice slide (this week) of a goal that we had two-and-a-half years ago where we would play against the best in the world at Cape Town Stadium, and now it’s happening. We are playing against the defending champions of the Champions Cup,” Hlungwani added.

“It was a dream for us to bring these types of games to the faithful of Cape Town. That is how we are going to make them smile. So now the game is here and we are looking forward to putting in a good performance.”

It hasn’t been a great season for the Stormers so far after winning three games and losing five in all competitions, and they come up a similarly struggling La Rochelle.

Opening losses

Both teams lost their Champions Cup openers. La Rochelle went down 19-16 to Leinster, while it was a second-string Stormers side that impressed and almost shocked English team Leicester Tigers before losing 35-26.

The Stormers’ last home game saw them pick up an unconvincing but comfortable win over Zebre, and Hlungwani believed that although recent results were not exactly what they wanted, it showed they were moving in the right direction.

“I think the momentum is coming. We are building up nicely. There were certain things we asked of the guys that played Leicester and we thought they did really well,” explained Hlungwani.

“We asked for fight, we asked them to be physical and I think they ticked those boxes really well, which now has challenged the rest of the group to improve on that level of physicality, intensity and fight.

“In that way we feel we are slowly building momentum in terms of improving those small things that drive this team.”

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