New boys are loving Toulon in the big time

Joe van Niekerk couldn’t be happier as he gets set to lead Toulon into their historic first Heineken Cup quarter-final at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona.

Beating Perpignan 29-20 at Stade Aimee Giral back in November is a good memory for them to take on the road, but their 38-10 trouncing of Stade Francais Paris on home soil last weekend was just the boost the Springbok was looking for ahead of the trip to Spain.

“The win over Stade Francais really was a massive boost for the team. We were strong, we scored tries and picked up a vital bonus point,” said van Niekerk.

“We know we can’t qualify for the Heineken Cup next season if we don’t finish in the first six in the Top 14 or win the tournament.

“So we are highly motivated and the performance against Stade will really help us to prepare for Perpignan.

“We won’t feel any extra pressure this week even though it is a very important game for us. Every game is important and we will prepare in the same way as for every other match.

“We know that Perpignan are a good side and are the team to beat. They have a lot of experience in the Heineken Cup, but the matches we played in the Pool against Munster, and the victory away against London Irish, have helped us to grow confidence and to believe in ourselves.

“The win over Munster was huge and in a Heineken Cup quarter-final anything can happen. I think we have a good chance and we have already beaten Perpignan at their home this season. That will mean they will have revenge in mind.”

There were 18 points from the boot of Jonny Wilkinson in Toulon’s win over Stade and the England outside half will be treading new ground when he plays in his first Heineken Cup knock-out game this weekend.

“The atmosphere in Barcelona will be amazing. Neither Perpignan or Toulon have ever played there before so it is going to be absolutely fantastic,” said van Niekerk.

“We will be taking around 6,000 fans with us and they will make enough noise to sound like 10,000. I’m really looking forward to playing in front of a massive crowd, in a great stadium.

“We will be very focused and anything can happen in a one-off game.”

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