DURBAN – In Jimmy Stonehouse, the Pumas have a coach who is built like a brick outhouse and his players play like he looks.
That is the candid assessment of Sharks lock Ruben van Heerden ahead of his team’s Currie Cup visit to Nelspruit tomorrow.
“If you look at Jimmy (a champion powerlifter when he is not coaching rugby), they play a lot to his character,” said Van Heerden, the 21-year-old who came good for the Sharks in Super Rugby this year.
“He is a hard man, strong and disciplined... so we know the Pumas will bring physicality from minute one, and we as a pack have to front up and embrace that challenge. There is no way around it so we need to go through it.”
Van Heerden will be at the forefront of the Sharks’ forward effort, as he has been since he got his break in Super Rugby when injury to Ruan Botha opened the door for him.
Van Heerden was always going to come good for the Sharks given his rich pedigree. The former Affies pupil played for SA Schools in 2015 and the SA Under-20s in 2017. With his undoubted talent, Van Heerden looks to have a bright future ahead of him.
“I have definitely matured over the course of this year. I felt I grew with each Super Rugby game and the confidence followed,” he said.
Van Heerden and Hyron Andrews finished Super Rugby as an established combination and it is very useful for the Sharks that they are continuing as a duo in the Currie Cup.
Van Heerden is the rugged enforcer, while Andrews is more mobile.
“I enjoy playing with Hyron and we complement each other as a combination, so hopefully it can carry on for many years to come,” Van Heerden said.
“We understand the responsibility of filling the big boots that have gone before us in the Sharks second row. Something we are focussing on in the Currie Cup is looking back at the legends that wore the jersey before us, and we appreciate the significance of it. Every time you put the Sharks jersey on, you want to do it proud.”
The Sharks did not get that right in their depressing defeat to Griquas but the players, to their credit, have taken the criticism they received on the chin.
“We took the loss to Griquas very personally and were very keen to bounce back against Western Province. We knew what it would take,” Van Heerden said.
“We are looking to grow every week, we did that by beating Province, and every weekend is an opportunity to grow further. This Friday it is Nelspruit and we know what they (the Pumas) are capable of so we will not take them lightly.
The guys are ready to deliver a physical performance.”@MikeGreenaway67