Venter not expecting ‘funny things’ in scrums

Young hooker André-Hugo Venter’s form for the Stormers has earned him an invitation to next week’s Springbok alignment camp. Photo: BackpagePix

Young hooker André-Hugo Venter’s form for the Stormers has earned him an invitation to next week’s Springbok alignment camp. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Feb 28, 2024


One of the famous phrases from an old South African TV ad was, “in the centre, Mr Venter”.

Well, André Venter was in the centre of one of the great Springbok loose-trios of all time, with one Johan Erasmus and Gary Teichmann either side of him.

Now Venter’s son, André-Hugo, is a hooker tearing it up with the Stormers, so much so that he was picked by Erasmus for the first Springbok alignment camp taking place in Cape Town next week.

Real rugby aficionados will tell you that his selection is far from just a case of his dad’s old buddy picking him, as the 22-year-old Venter has been so good for the Cape side that he is even keeping Bok hooker Joseph Dweba out of the match-23 at times.

To his credit, Venter is not getting ahead of himself and dreaming of his Bok debut just yet, as he may have a few opponents waiting to put him in his place in Saturday’s massive United Rugby Championship clash against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld (5.05pm kick-off).

His former junior teammate Jan-Hendrik Wessels and Bulls No 2 Johan Grobbelaar also made the Bok group, while a third front-ranker, Akker van der Merwe, was left out. The Maties star, however, is taking it all in his stride.

“To be honest, it’s mostly thanks to the team and the coaches for giving me the chance to play – and then there is pressure on me to play well and so on,” André-Hugo said yesterday.

“With regards to my dad, he hasn’t put any pressure on me, actually. All the pressure from his side is more on the academic side!

“So, just really privileged to have been spotted by the coaching staff a few years ago at Maties, and being able to get the chance to play and represent the union. It makes me proud to represent a special union, and you can see that most of the guys don’t really want to leave this place.

“With the academics, hopefully, I’m finishing next year; and then I can lay off that a bit and focus on my rugby ...

“To be honest, I think I am in the right space, and there is not a lot of pressure on me, bearing the Venter name. It’s really humbling (to be invited to the Bok camp), but you are only as good as your last game.”

The Stormers are enjoying a seven-match winning streak over the Bulls in the URC but Jake White’s Bulls have scored the most tries and most points in the competition this season, and are the best-placed SA side in third place on the log.

They are also set to welcome back tighthead powerhouse Wilco Louw, so Venter can expect an enormous battle in the scrums.

“The way we scrum, we don’t focus on individuals at all,” he said.

“So, for me, it’s really important to focus on my job and our way of scrumming. I don’t think there is going to be too much of the ‘funny things’ going on with the hooker battle! But at the end of the day, you still want to prove a point ...

“The Bulls are playing an excellent brand of rugby for the last while. So, it will be important for us to pitch up physically – especially for our front-row and pack.

“It’s always tough going to Loftus. It’s a different circumstance – altitude always plays a role. The crowd is always up for it, and hopefully we’ll see some Stormers fans in the crowd that will help us on and take us forward as well.”

Meanwhile, in a significant boost to the Stormers, forwards coach Rito Hlungwani confirmed yesterday that stalwart tighthead prop Frans Malherbe will be among the returning Springboks for Saturday’s Loftus clash.

He will be considered for selection alongside the other Boks who are back from their resting protocols – Deon Fourie, Manie Libbok and Damian Willemse.