Stormers bracing for massive test against champions La Rochelle in Cup showdown

Stormers bracing for massive test against champions La Rochelle in Cup showdown

Stormers head coach John Dobson said his side are preparing for a clash of Test Match intensity when they host defending champions La Rochelle in their Champions Cup round-of-16 clash on Saturday.

The men from the Cape secured home-ground advantage after winning three out of four matches during the pool phase of the competition.

It will be the second time that these sides face off in this season's Champions Cup, after the Stormers claimed a last-gasp 21-20 victory when the teams met in their pool match in Cape Town last December.

On that occasion, Springbok flyhalf Manie Libbok sealed the result with a touchline conversion at the death and Dobson expects an even tougher test against the champions on Saturday.

"It's going to be a Test match next week," he told the Stormers' official website. "They are one of the best club teams in the world, better than most Test teams.

"They would be in the top 10 of World Rugby's rankings without any stress."

The Stormers head into their clash against La Rochelle after they were made to work very hard for a 13-7 United Rugby Championship victory over Ulster in Cape Town at the weekend.

Speaking after that win, Dobson said he believes their narrow victory will be ideal preparation for what should be a highly physical battle against La Rochelle.

"Tonight will be very helpful for next week. It will be a different size of animal coming," he said.

"Physically, we were amazing. We kept smashing them in double tackles. But when we got the ball, we just hacked it away or kicked it out.

"It was a lesson for us. We tweaked our defence at half-time, but it was a lesson for us.

"What gave us hope was that we were great physically on defence. It was tough."

Dobson was full of praise for Ulster, who held a 7-0 lead for most of the match before a strong finish from the Stormers sealed their victory.

"Ulster were outstanding. But the truth is that we butchered three or four tries against the Vodacom Bulls, at least five or six last week and today it was a similar, if not higher, number," he said.

"At least we were playing DHL Stormers rugby in the second half. It's just frustrating to leave so many tries out there. It will be great preparation, but those first 20 minutes were tough."

Dobson revealed that there were some tough decisions to make when he picks his team for the La Rochelle clash, which will be the Stormers' biggest match of the season.

"Selection will be a problem, fitting all these guys in," he added. "It's a chicken and egg situation, do you choose to stop La Rochelle, by picking your most physical guys, or do you think you can break them open, which might require something else?"

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