DHL Stormers prop Steven Kitshoff has hailed the landmark expansion of the Heineken Champions Cup to include South African clubs this season as ‘massive’.
United Rugby Championship sides (URC) DHL Stormers, Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls will all feature in EPCR’s leading competition this campaign, adding a further challenge to an already-elite tournament.
Kitshoff made seven appearances in the competition over a two-year stint at Union Bordeaux-Bègles before returning to Cape-Town based DHL Stormers in 2017.
The 62-time Springbok says he eager to see how his side fare against TOP 14 and Gallagher Premiership teams in the Heineken Champions Cup.
“I think the Heineken Champions Cup is going to be quite exciting,” the 30-year-old said. “In the URC you face Welsh teams, Irish teams, South Africans, Italian teams. A bit of TOP 14 and Premiership is going to be quite exciting.
“I think it’s a big challenge ahead. I think what the Stormers have bought in the previous season, it’s going to be quite exciting facing new challenges that the TOP 14 and the Prem will bring for us.
“Previously when I was still playing at Bordeaux, I played a bit of Heineken Cup, so it was a fun competition for me back then.
“Can’t remember much but just watching it on TV, it’s quite a challenging tournament. I think the best of the best at club level play against each other for probably the ultimate prize to be champions of Europe.
There’s a spicy storm brewing 👀@Springboks legend @StevenKitshoff is pumped for @THESTORMERS to step up in #HeinekenChampionsCup action 🔥@UlsterRugby fans you might want to listen to this 👀 pic.twitter.com/6IiISYhPLq
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) October 23, 2022
“I think it’s going to be quite a challenging tournament and we are really looking forward to the challenges that [it] will bring for a new team like us.”
Kitshoff is also looking forward to coming up against some of his compatriots in the Heineken Champions Cup, with Leicester Tigers No.8 Jasper Wiese and Harlequins duo Wilco Louw and André Esterhuizen three of the talents he picked out.
“I think there’s a vast majority of great players playing all over Europe, but I think playing against the South African boys, especially in a European competition, is going to be massive.
“I think guys like Jasper, Wilco, André Esterhuizen and the guys who have been playing those competitions for years, and the challenges they will bring to us, will be something to look forward to.
“[I’m looking forward to] playing teams with massive South African-based players and just trying to compete and try and get the upper hand as much as you can.”
DHL Stormers face ASM Clermont Auvergne and London Irish in Pool B, with their maiden Heineken Champions Cup game seeing them visit the TOP 14 side’s Stade Marcel-Michelin on December 10.
Kitshoff believes that trip to France and the away clash with Irish will provide his side with unique and exciting tests.
“I think both are quite challenging teams,” he said. “I think Clemont, especially in France, is one of the toughest games I’ve ever played thinking back to when I was still at Bordeaux.
“I think Clermont, massive team, especially away from home, I think it’s going be a different challenge when we play them here in our stadium.
“And then London Irish, I don’t know much about it, but I think we’ll do a lot of prep work during the during the season, see what their strengths and weaknesses are.
“I think it’s going to be quite a fun game playing in London. I think there’s a lot of South Africans living out there coming to watch the game, and I think will be a massive experience.”