Deon Fourie (picture above) reached the pinnacle of his remarkable career when he played 76 minutes at hooker when South Africa beat New Zealand by 12-11 in an epic Rugby World Cup Final at the Stade de France in St Denis in Paris on 28 October.
The 37-year-old now faces another big milestone when he leads the charge for the DHL Stormers against the defending champions La Rochelle in an Investec European Championships Cup clash at the DHL Stadium in Cape Town (kick-off 15:00) on Saturday 16 December 2023.
“It was our goal two and a half years ago to play one of best teams in the world at the DHL stadium. For them (La Rochelle) coming down here as the champions of the previous two years, and a big name in the Top 14 as well . . . it will be nice to host them,” Fourie said this week ahead of the big clash in the Mother City.
La Rochelle was beaten 9-16 by Leinster at home last week. The Springbok loose forward however feels the French team will do everything in their power to get back to winning ways this weekend.
“I know La Rochelle quite well. They built quite a nice squad and showed that the last three or four years. Losing at home last week was not what they wanted, but they have a great record of winning in La Rochelle. I think they will come out firing to get those points that they lost this weekend.”
The Stormers struggled in their away games in Europe, but Fourie says it is still a long season and they are well on their way to getting their structures right.
“We always stayed in the fight and were always close to winning those games. I think that’s where you build character and that is how you build a team to be stronger.
“Luckily it’s a long season. I think if you look at Munster last year as well. I think they struggled in the beginning and then they went firing in the second half of the season and they won the URC.
“I think the guys are building quite nicely. You could see from the previous game against Leicester Tigers that we are getting there. We getting all our structures in place with the guys trusting the system they we want to implement here at the Stormers.
“When you lose three games on the trot you start doubting yourself and the team. The Champions Cup is a much bigger and more prestigious competition where the margin for error is smaller.
“It’s not only the Springboks but almost a whole team who stayed behind. I think it’s clever from Dobbo (Stormers coach John Dobson) and the rest of the management to test the depth. We (the Springboks) had four weeks off, but its nice to be back at the Stormers with fresh faces and voices. That helps a lot.”
Fourie is wary of the reigning champions massive forward pack and exciting backs. He thinks the difference between the two sides will be who get the upper hand amongst the forwards.
“If they get momentum and get to be on top of you, it will be long day for us. So, the big test will definitely be up front,” he warned.
La Rochelle boasts former Springbok wingers, Dillyn Leyds and Raymond Rhule amongst their dangerous backs, who will both present a familiar foe for Stormers. Besides the threat that the speedsters pose, the return of France number eight Grégory Alldritt will strengthen an already formidable side.
Alldritt (26), who boasts 100 caps for La Rochelle and 45 test caps for France was one of the stand-out players at the global showpiece on home soil. Fourie thinks the loose forward will bring a different dynamic to the team.
“I think he is a quality player. He is a guy for the big moments and a seasoned campaigner for La Rochelle. He can be a menace at the breakdown. However, they have quality players al round. They not the reining champions two years in a row for nothing. For them to lose at home is a big thing and we need to be prepared to whatever comes our way,” added Fourie