2024 DHL Stormers vs Stade Rochelais

Investec Champions Cup Round Of 16: Sportsmanship, Tries And New Faces

Investec Champions Cup Round Of 16: Sportsmanship, Tries And New Faces

Here are the standout moments from the Investec Champions Cup knockout stages! Will Skelton's sportsmanship and thrilling clashes set the stage.

Apr 8, 2024 by Philip Bendon

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For Northern Hemisphere, and now South African rugby fans, the knockout stages of the Investec Champions Cup are the key indicator that we are now at the business end of the season.

Gone are the days of second chances, with every result being either the making or breaking of a team’s season from here on out.

The true starting point for this shift in focus was this weekend, as the best sides in this year’s competition took to the pitch for the Round of 16.

Across the eight fixtures on show, there were highlights galore. Here are some the best bits from the weekend:

Will Skelton Sportsmanship

La Rochelle and Wallabies star Will Skelton is one of the biggest figures, both reputationally and physically. 

Highly regarded for his world-class skills, the 6-foot-8, 330-pound secondrow is one of the most physically impressive specimens in professional rugby. 

Off the pitch, the big man is regarded as one of the true gentlemen of the game, and this was on full display over the weekend. 

Carrying hard at the DHL Stormers' defensive line, Skelton steamrolled Stormers captain Salmaan Moerat. Getting his head on the wrong side of Skelton’s knee, Moerat appeared to be out cold, with Skelton noticing this immediately. 

Not only did Skelton bring the play to a halt while his team was in the ascendancy, but he also protected Moerat from further damage by blocking a potential collision from landing on him. 

Utilizing every bit of his immense strength, Skelton held off the on-charging group of players and brought play to an end, so Moerat could get the necessary medical attention. This truly was a moment of pure class from Skelton and rightly has gone viral around the rugby world.

Champions Cup Greatest Rivalry Renewed

Leinster against La Rochelle, when have we heard that before? Oh yeah, that’s right, the past three seasons and earlier this season! 

Downing Leinster in a semifinal and two finals, La Rochelle picked up where Saracens left off as Leinster’s boogie men. 

Shaking this hoodoo earlier this season, Leinster brought an end to this torrid run with a mightily impressive victory on the road to being its campaign. 

Yet, this result will carry little weight if the Irish side fails to knock over its rivals in next week’s mouth-watering quarterfinal matchup at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, which is, of course, the site of last year’s final. 

As Manie Libbok’s conversion went wide left last weekend, one has to wonder if Leinster was relishing the opportunity to add another line in the win column, or if they would have rather faced their URC rival.

Scintillating Saints Vs. Injury-Ravaged Munster

Another season without the Champions Cup residing in Limerick will be mightily disappointing for reigning URC champion, Munster. 

Down to the bare bones of its squad, it always was going to be a big ask to travel to Northampton to face a red-hot Saints side. Yet, at halftime the scores were all level at 14. For Graham Rowntree’s side, the downfall began when they had to make substitutions. 

Where the Saints subs made a major impact, namely George Hendy, who scored the decisive tries, the Munster ones looked out of their depth. This is not to take away from the magnificent Saints, but more to add perspective to a Munster season that has been derailed by injury to date. 

The Saints have the feel of a side that is on an exciting journey with some of England Rugby’s brightest talents. 

Hosting the Vodacom Bulls next week will be a challenge that they will feel confident in overcoming. From there, a potential first semifinal berth since the 2010-2011 season awaits.

Toulouse Double Act

They are back… Yes, that’s right, the game’s best halfback pairing of Antoine Dupont and Romain Ntamack are back together in a big way. 

Now fully fit, Ntamack’s return from a serious knee injury is a major boost for both club and country. 

Sorely missed throughout the Rugby World Cup and Guinness Six Nations, the classy fly-half has reminded the rugby world that he remains one of the very best ball players on the planet. 

On his inside, Dupont has picked up where he left off from his first dabble in the world of sevens rugby. Pulling the strings masterfully during their team’s victory over Top 14 rivals Racing 92, the duo are a big reason Toulouse now looks like the odds-on favorite to add another star to the team's jerseys later this year in London.

Brilliant Bordeaux Blitz Sarries

Out with the old and in with the new! 

OK, that may be a little harsh, but Bordeaux’s elevation as a true contender, while Saracens continues to slip away, is a fascinating development. 

Jam-packed with international talent, Bordeaux is one of the most dangerous teams left in the competition. 

Steamrolling everyone in their path, bar a narrow loss with a second-string side away to the Bulls, the French side will enter its quarterfinal match against Harlequins as the heavy favorite. 

Leading by over 30 points, while keeping Saracens scoreless for the bulk of the fixture, is mightily impressive, especially considering that Saracens recently put 50 points on Harlequins. 

Do as many expected they will, and the men from Bordeaux will be in the semifinal dance, where nobody will want to face them.

How To Watch Rugby Matches In the United States On FloRugby

The Investec Champions Cup will stream all its matches on FloRugby and the FloSports app in the United States. FloRugby and FloSports also are the U.S. home to:

FloRugby also is home to match archives and match replays. 

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