Exeter Chiefs stand on the precipice of history for the South-West club. A win against La Rochelle and they will secure a home Champions Cup quarter-final for the first time in their history.
David Challis has all in insight from the Chiefs camp as they prepare for the visit of La Rochelle. Interviews with club stalwart Ian Whitten are coupled with words from Director of Rugby Rob Baxter. In addition, we had the opportunity to catch up with new signing Jacques Vermeulen on life in Exeter.
The Value of a Home Quarter-Final
Home sides have historically dominated quarter finals in the Champions Cup making the race to finish as a top-four seed all the more important. However, Rob Baxter would see the achievement more as a testament to the way his side have approached the competition.
Baxter said, “the single biggest reason is we’ve talked all season about keeping things in our hands and right now a home-quarter final is in our hands. It’s a game if we win we have a home quarter final. So I think that’s the most important take on it for me.”
On top of this Whitten, Vermeulen and Baxter were quick to how special a home quarter-final would be for the Chiefs fans. Vermeulen said, “I think its huge for us as Exeter Chiefs to get a home quarter-final”.
Ian Whitten – The Importance of this Weekend
As someone who has been involved in all of Exeter Chiefs’ Champions Cup campaigns Ian Whitten knows more than most what it takes to be successful.
“I think there’s been an appreciation over the years of how much effort you need to put into it, how much you have to give to every single game and what it means to the other teams,” said Whitten when he reflected on his side’s campaign so far.
It will be a historic day for the club if Chiefs are successful at the weekend but it has been a long time coming. A number of years of failure in Europe have finally culminated in the success we are seeing from Exeter this season.
Jacques Vermeulen – Loving Life in Exeter
Now the towering South African has had a chance to settle in and reflect on his time so far at the Chiefs he is rightly proud of his accomplishments. “It’s a great start to my Exeter Chiefs career,” said Vermeulen and he believes this is partly because “all the boys were so welcoming” upon his arrival.
Vermeulen also pointed out how the competition of the likes of Don Armand, Sam Simmonds and Matt Kvesic, to name a few, have been a key factor in driving him on. Moving here with fellow countrymen Jannes Kirsten has also likely been important in allowing him to settle quickly.
The back-rower has made quick the impact on the Premiership so far. Although his size and power were always going to make him a force to be reckoned with, few predicted he would impress so quickly.
One of those few was Baxter though;
“I had an expectation he’d be good in the Premiership and in Europe”
Vermeulen is clearly loving life down in Exeter and he believes that the success he has experienced so far is in part down to the style Chiefs play.
“The rugby model we use here at the Exeter Chiefs I think it fits my kind of play, It made it easy to fit in here,” he added.
Vermeulen will be a key part in Exeter’s drive for an historic home quarter-final this weekend. However, few will expect an easy game from La Rochelle who will no doubt come with the aim of leaving with their pride very much intact.
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) January 14, 2020
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