PRETORIA - One would have to go back four decades to the last time a Van Heerden played in the second row of a successful Blue Bulls team in the Currie Cup.
Moaner van Heerden remains one of those revered figures in the history of Bulls rugby and is still talked about along with his teammate Louis Moolman.
Fast forward to 40 years later and there is another Van Heerden in the Bulls second row carving a name for himself in the Currie Cup.
And come Saturday at King’s Park against the Sharks in that Currie Cup semi-final, 19-year-old bulls lock Ruben van Heerden will look to leave his own unforget-table stamp on proceedings along with his teammates.
There is no doubt that Van Heerden is going to walk in the footsteps of Moaner the Great and in all likelihood will fulfil the destiny of most Bulls locks by becoming a Springbok in the same way that Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha did in recent times.
But like many of the great Springbok locks that have worn the sky blue jersey with the Barberton daisy, one has to hold aloft the Currie Cup trophy to earn the rite of passage to greatness.
Van Heerden has featured in all of the Bulls games this season and along with his second row partner, another newcomer in Aston Fortuin, they have made the most of the absence of Springbok lock Lood de Jager, who is on national duty and RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins - both plying their trade in Japan before returning for Super Rugby.
Van Heerden feels that he has grown immensely this season, along with Fortuin, who is doubtful for Saturday’s semi-final after sustaining an ankle injury last Friday.
“I certainly feel so (that I have grown). When I look at where I was at the beginning of the season and where I am now, I’m a totally different player,” said Van Heerden.
“Aston and I came in for Snyman and Jenkins and even though they left big boots to fill, we are just using every opportunity. We understand each other very well and we are good friends off the field.
"I feel that definitely we have grown a great deal and we are still going to grow. We are still young, I turn 20 next week and Aston is 21 and we are going to grow but looking at how far we’ve come this year, there is a lot to be positive about."
The Bulls have also experienced some growing as a team since John Mitchell took over the reins just under two months ago but Van Heerden believes that overcoming an older and experienced Pumas pack last weekend to secure a 52-32 win, was the best preparation to yet again front up against a similar pack in the Sharks.
“The Pumas have a very good pack and I believe that they have mauled the best in the competition this year. I think we handled their maul very well and worked hard to stop it. For most of the game we did very well to stand up to them especially considering that they are an older pack and we are a young pack.
“I think that was the best thing that could have happened to us because the Sharks also have a big and strong pack.We know what they bring as a pack, they are a big and strong. But we have prepared well and know what we need to do and we are looking forward to the challenge,” Van Heerden added.
Ruben van Heerden, though, will not make a name for himself by beating the opposition into submission in the way Moaner famously did, instead he will marry the physical presence of Moaner van Heerden and the athleticism and intelligence of Matfield in carving his own path to greatness.