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Fired-up Stade Rochelais heads to Cape Town

TOP 14 WRAP: An ameliorated Stade Rochelais will arrive in Cape Town on Saturday, for their Champions Cup Round 16 face-off with the Stormers.

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After a patchy start to the season – which saw them well down in the French Top 14 standings and losing their opening matches in Europe’s premier franchise competition – to Leinster (9-16) and Stormers (20-21 in Cape Town) – Les Jaune et Noir hit their straps in the last couple of months.

This past weekend – with Australia hooker Tolu Latu claiming a double – the defending Champions Cup team warmed up for the Stormers by overcoming bottom side Oyonnax 40-21.

It was their third win in the last five Top 14 outings – beating Clermont Auvergne, Stade Français and Oyonnax.

Those were all at home, with their losses – to Union Sportive Arlequins Perpignanais and Aviron Bayonnais – both away.

However, more significantly, their gargantuan pack fired them to an impressive win at the weekend.

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After dominating the first half and racing to a 28-0 lead at Stade Marcel Deflandre, Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle produced a sluggish second half – taking the proverbial foot off the gas.

Yellow cards for Berjon and 20-year-old replacement prop Alexandre Kaddouri, and a distinct downturn in performance, allowed Oyonnax to score three second-half tries and pull the scores back to 21-28 just after the hour.

Teenage centre Simeli Daunivucu and 20-year-old back row Oscar Jegou both scored in the closing minutes to spare La Rochelle’s blushes, rack up the side’s 11th bonus point of the season, and raise a slight smile from the boss on the sidelines.

Expect a different side in Cape Town.

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Jonathan Danty will be available again after his Six Nations ban, while Will Skelton, Levani Botia and Tawera Kerr-Barlow are expected to make the trip to South Africa,

Forwards coach Romain Carmignani admitted that there will be plenty to work on in the time available before kick-off in Cape Town.

“It’s rugby, nothing is ever perfect,” he told reporters.

“We, the coaches, focus a lot on detail and precision.

“There is plenty to say about this match.”

* Additional reporting by the Irish Examiner

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