- Ben Loader joined the Stormers in South Africa after London Irish collapsed
- Younger brother, Danny, left Reading FC to join Porto in Portugal in 2020
- Ben has represented England at age-group level and the Barbarians back in 2019
From Reading to the world, in two different sports. Ben Loader saw his brother Danny’s move abroad to play football for Porto and raised it — with a sudden relocation to Cape Town.
The 25-year-old wing, who represented England at age-group level and against the Barbarians in 2019, was part of a successful home-grown generation at London Irish before the club collapsed last summer.
He was seeking another Premiership contract when the Stormers made him an offer he could not refuse, to join them in the Southern Hemisphere.
So the Loader boys’ career heat map has expanded significantly, which is a far cry from when they chased different-shaped balls around the same arena in their home town. ‘Danny’s playing for Porto and he’s loving it out there,’ Ben told Mail Sport, about his younger brother.
‘It’s crazy, we started our careers — him at Reading and me at London Irish — back in the days when both teams played at the Madejski Stadium.
Ben Loader is revelling in South Africa after joining Stormers in a surprise move last summer
Younger brother, Danny, swapped Reading for Portuguese football side Porto in 2020
‘This is something we’ve got used to. This is the life of a professional sportsman — you can be anywhere in the world really. We try to follow each other as much as we can.
‘In another life, I might have fancied myself as a centre back. I didn’t do badly, I was OK. But he could run rings around me playing football from an early age. We grew up playing rugby, football, cricket. I fancied myself as a footballer, then I took cricket quite seriously before rugby came back into it.
‘But for him, it was always football. He could spend hours on his own, in the back garden, practising by himself. It was quite clear he had that drive in him.’
Loader, whose mother is from Cameroon, has settled well in his new, distant surroundings and relished the novelty of spending the festive season outdoors.
‘It’s the first Christmas I’d spent away from home but my mum came and we had a nice time,’ he said. ‘It’s very different. It’s the height of summer so everyone is around the beach.
Ben was part of a successful home-grown generation at London Irish before the club collapsed
‘Christmas lunch was a bit of a change from the traditional roast turkey because it’s far too hot for that. I had a nice seafood lunch.’
Just after the end of last season, when London Irish lost their battle to stay afloat, Loader was weighing up his options.
What happened next was an unexpected, life-changing chain of events. It turns out that he had made a positive impression the previous year, when the Exiles visited the Western Cape for a Champions Cup match.
‘I got a text from the forwards coach here [at Stormers],’ said Loader.
‘I thought someone was having me on. I didn’t think it was serious but, after a couple of conversations, I realised these guys really wanted me. Then I had to start thinking about the possibility of uprooting my whole life and moving to Cape Town.
‘It was a huge move but it filled me with excitement. It’s not a common pathway for English players. I’m the only Englishman playing for any of the top four teams in South Africa. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. The chance to live and work out here will hopefully make me a more rounded, better person.
The 25-year-old wing says he was shocked the Stormers were interested in signing him
‘I loved London Irish but it’s all I had ever known, so broadening my horizons probably factored into it a bit as well as the rugby-playing opportunity.
‘I wake up every day and I can see Table Mountain from my balcony. I haven’t got over that yet: the beauty of this place.
‘It’s just incredible. It’s not something I will get bored of.’
From the depths of being left redundant last June, Loader has joined his brother in making a name for himself, many miles away from Reading.