For Cell C Sharks hooker Kerron van Vuuren, Friday night’s Vodacom Super Rugby victory over the Emirates Lions was a dream come true for the young player who has bided his time in the system, worked hard and has now realised his aspirations.
Thrust into the spotlight against the Lions and going up against Malcolm Marx as the starting hooker for the first time in his senior career, he could have folded, but instead grasped the opportunity with everything he had and acquitted himself with aplomb.
“I was a bit overwhelmed,” he admits of his first start, “I was excited but nervous at the same time. “Growing up a Sharks supporter and wanting to play for this union, it was an absolute dream come true and really special.”
And the result was the cherry on the top.
“Going up there and beating the Lions is a tough enough task, but to win by that score-line was an absolute fairy-tale. It was very special, a great experience.”
A few months ago he may have had lofty aspirations like any other young player in the Cell C Sharks Super Rugby squad, but who would have thought he would be thrust into a cauldron against the top South African side and the top hooker in the country?
“It has come in the blink of an eye, overnight really,” he admits, “but I do my best to make sure the preparation and planning is done and that I do the basics right so when that moment comes, I’m not nervous and I’m able to do my job well.
“It was a big boost to my confidence to go out there against one of the best hookers in the world and do my job successfully. It’s massive motivation going forward and hopefully it’s a stepping stone to higher accolades.”
He’s been in the system for a few years now, representing the union at age group level and sees his current status as Cell C Sharks starting hooker as reward for all the hard work.
“This is now the culmination of a few years all coming together; I did my time at Under 19s and Under 21s, played some SuperSport Challenge rugby for the Cell C Sharks XV and was then drafted into the Currie Cup. So I feel that I’ve gone through the right processes and it’s now time for me to start stepping up to the big league.”
Although he was included in last year’s Currie Cup squad, it was felt that his long term development would be better served if he was playing regularly and was given the chance to play elsewhere to broaden his horizons.
“Last year I was sent to the Kings for a bit of experience as I wasn’t getting much opportunity for game time with there being other experienced hookers in the system, so it was great to play some first class rugby and help the Kings out and gain that experience.”
Reflecting on this past weekend’s baptism of fire against the Lions’ Malcolm Marx, he admits that, “It is in the back of your mind to know you’re going up against the Bok hooker, there was a lot of pressure, but I used that as motivation to drive the best out of me.”
The pressure doesn’t let up and this weekend, he is up against his Jaguares counterpart Agustín Creevy who has played over 80 times for the Argentina national side since making his international debut in 2005.
“I am probably going up against one of the best hookers in world rugby at the moment, but that’s perfect, I’m really going to enjoy that. I’ll learn a lot from him and gain valuable experience, but I’m also going to come to the party and I don’t plan on letting him off easily.
“I’m just trying to stay calm, level-headed and humble and keep working.”