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DHL Stormers will aim to continue their winning sequence in their debut Heineken Champions Cup season with a Round of 16 victory against Harlequins in Cape Town on Saturday.
The BKT United Rugby Championship (URC) outfit responded from an opening defeat against ASM Clermont Auvergne with two wins against London Irish before beating Clermont in Cape Town to comfortably qualify from Pool B in third place.
Harlequins also lost their opening match, against Cell C Sharks, but were then also beaten in Round 3 by Racing 92, before avenging their Sharks defeat in Round 4 to finish sixth in Pool A.
Quins have run in 16 tries in this year’s Heineken Champions Cup but defensive frailties have seen them concede 108 points.
The first meeting between the sides in the Heineken Champions Cup kicks off at the DHL Stadium at 3pm UK time and can be watched on SuperSport, BT Sport, beIN SPORTS and FloRugby.
DHL Stormers head coach John Dobson: “We’ve done quite a bit of work on them. It’s going to be a great spectacle in our conditions, with their style of rugby. They play a great, attractive brand of rugby, so we are going to do what we did against Leinster – slow some ball down (at the breakdown), stop Andre Esterhuizen. It’s going to be a great spectacle with hopefully 50,000 people in the DHL Stadium.”
SKILL CHALLENGE 🔥
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) March 28, 2023
- Damian Willemse has made more offloads than any other player in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (10).
- DHL Stormers are one of two sides who have scored two tries which have both begun in their own 22.
- Hacjivah Dayimani’s four clean breaks against London Irish in Round 2 remains the record for a forward in a single match this season.
- Nick David has made as many metres with ball in hand as any other player in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (340). David has also produced more try assists than any other back (four) and beaten more defenders than any other player (20).
- Will Evans has won more turnovers than any other player (nine). Evans won a round-high of four turnovers last time out.
- Danny Care missed six tackles against Cell C Sharks during Round 4 in January. Only Rory Jennings (London Irish) has missed as many.
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DHL Stormers become the second South African side in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals after overcoming Harlequins 32-28 in an impressive display in Cape Town on Saturday.
Deon Fourie (2), Steven Kitshoff, Damian Willemse and Willie Engelbrecht went over for the hosts, who were largely excellent both on the front foot and defensively in their maiden EPCR knockout stage game.
Quins endured a frustrating afternoon but crossed through Alex Dombrandt (2), Andre Esterhuizen and Joe Marchant, though their latter three scores came in the final minutes when the game was all but over as a contest.
It was a breathless start to the encounter and DHL Stadium erupted with less than a minute played when flanker Fourie went over out wide after excellent work from No.8 Hacjivah Dayimani and wing Suleiman Hartzenberg.
5️⃣5️⃣ SECONDS 🤯🤯🤯
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 1, 2023
Fly-half Libbok converted but Quins found any immediate response when No.8 Dombrandt peeled round the front of a lineout and crashed over in the corner, fly-half Smith adding the extras to level the scores.
DHL Stormers were back in front as they crossed for a third try inside nine minutes, prop Kitshoff profiting from another well-worked lineout move, though Libbok was off target with the conversion.
The intensity remained high, but the next points wouldn’t come until 28 minutes when Fourie spun out a driving lineout maul and splashed over for his second of the afternoon, Quins paying the price for conceding two penalties in quick succession.
Libbok’s conversion went wide again, and Quins were just 10 points adrift, but the visitors were unable to chip into that lead before the break despite ending the half in the ascendancy, DHL Stormers’ defence holding firm despite conceding a string of penalties.
Yet another addition to the folder! What a finish from Damian Willemse 🤩⛈️🤩 pic.twitter.com/IbIhGZ21F8
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 1, 2023
DHL Stormers went close to a fourth try early in the second half when Hartzenberg gathered scrum-half Herschel Jantjies’ box kick and wriggled over, but the TMO spotted a double movement and the score was chalked off.
But the hosts would get over in extraordinary fashion moments later, wing Seabelo Senatla gathering a kick through before throwing a brilliant offload inside to full-back Willemse, who planted down one-handed and mid-air to avoid touch.
Quins enjoyed long spells of possession and territory in the second half, but a combination of their inaccuracy and DHL Stormers’ robust defence saw a series of chances go begging.
Replacement lock Engelbrecht added a fifth try for DHL Stormers to compound Quins’ misery, though three late efforts from Dombrandt, centre Andre Esterhuizen and wing Joe Marchant saw them end just four points adrift.