Double defending champion in the Champions Cup, Stade Rochelais came very close to elimination on Saturday April 6 in Cape Town. But a failed transformation by the South Africans, in the last minute of the match, allowed Grégory Alldritt and his partners to win by a very small point (21-22). La Rochelle will therefore play the quarter-finals of the competition, in a week, against the winner of the match between the Irish Leinster and the English Leicester.

The Maritimes suffered from start to finish in this match played in a DHL Stadium swept by a tricky swirling wind. From the 4th minute of play, the Stromers opener, Manie Libbok, gave his team the advantage by passing a penalty (3-0). In the 23rd minute, the same accentuated the lead of the South Africans, still at the foot (6-0). Manhandled by an aggressive defense, the Rochelais then conceded a try from scrum half Herschel Jantjies (28th).

Trailing 13-0 at half-time, and even 16-0 (46th) after a new penalty from Manie Libbok, world champion in 2023 with the Springboks, the double title holders finally reacted. In less than twenty minutes, they scored three tries by pillar Louis Penverne (50th), captain Grégory Alldritt (62nd) and the other pillar, Joel Sclavi (69th), and a penalty by Antoine Hastoy (55th).

The Rochelais, who then led 16-22, however found themselves in danger at the very end of the match by conceding a try from Suleiman Hartzenberg in the 80th minute. The fate of the match was then in the hands of Libbok, who just had to send the ball between the posts to give his team the victory. But, in a wind as unpredictable as ever, the South African opener failed this time, to the great pleasure of the Rochelais, who therefore won this round of 16 at the last minute (21-22).

Thanks to this success, La Rochelle can still hope to win the continental crown for a third time in a row, a feat only achieved by Toulon (2013, 2024 and 2015).

Nine tries for the Bulls against Lyon

Lyon, for its part, was no match for the South African Bulls (59-19) on Saturday in Pretoria. The LOU conceded three tries in the first half hour, by winger Sebastian de Klerk (13th), scrum half Embrose Papier (21st) and third row Marcell Coetzee (28th), before literally sinking.

The Rhone tests of scrum half Martin Page-Relo (31st) and full-back Thaakir Abrahams (56th), supplemented by a penalty try (47th), did not in fact change much: the second row Ruan Vermaak (34th), fullback Willie Le Roux (49th), Papier again (54th), then center David Kriel (69th), fly-half Chris Smith (72nd) and de Klerk (77th) all went there of their attempt in favor of the South Africans, implacable and realistic, who knew how to take advantage of a very feverish Lyon defense.

The Bulls will face the winner of the Anglo-Irish duel between Northampton and Munster in the quarter-finals next week.