Pretoria old boys must help Sharks get set-piece dominance against Bulls
DURBAN - Sharks coach Sean Everitt has made it clear that taming the Bulls’ set-piece is the key to victory at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, and he is looking to two Pretoria old boys in his ranks to spearhead the challenge.
Ruben van Heerden and Hyron Andrews, the second row combination in the heart of the Sharks’ engine room, will have a lot to do with the outcome of this Super Rugby Unlocked match on Saturday taking place in the city where they were schooled.
Van Heerden, a schoolboy star at Affies, came through the Bulls’ age groups before joining the Sharks in 2018 as a 20-year-old. He played SA Schools in 2015 and SA Under-20 two years later.
Andrews, 25, went to Hoérskool Garsfontein and as a junior Bull played SA Under-20 in 2015, and joined the Sharks later that same year.
The pair came together as a starting combination just over a year ago and they are growing into a respected partnership.
At two metres tall and 116kg, Van Heerden is more of an enforcer, and the lanky Andrews - 2.02m and 107kg - is an extra loose forward with his mobility.
“Ruben and Hyron are young in years but they are experienced campaigners,” Everitt says. “Week in week out they deliver quality performances for us, without always getting the recognition they deserve. They are workhorses that do the basics of their position really well. They are no-frills players that always put the needs of the team first.”
There was recognition for Andrews when he was picked in the Green team for the Springbok Showdown, but Van Heerden was overlooked.
“I thought Ruben was very unlucky not to make either of those squads,” Everitt said.
“He is consistently one of the best South African locks in Super Rugby, so I don’t think it will be long before he gets the recognition he deserves.”
And for Van Heerden there is no better stage to make a statement than at Loftus Versfeld against his former team, a side that is once more priding itself on set-piece play under new coach Jake White.
The Bulls beefed up their pack during lockdown, recruiting wisely from overseas, and after two rounds of Super Rugby Unlocked, the set-piece is clearly a massive focus for them under White.
“They rely heavily on their set-piece,” Everitt said.
“To play our game, we have to at least get parity in that department if not dominance, and there is no reason why that can’t happen given our quality second row combination, plus a front row that is coming along nicely - on their day (tighthead) Thomas du Toit and (looshead) Ox Nche can destroy their opposition.”