The Cell C Sharks are well aware of the dangers posed by the DHL Western Province pack, but have worked hard to counter that for Saturday’s Carling Currie Cup semi-final in Cape Town.
Not having played Western Province since last year’s Covid-19 enforced lockdown was eased to allow competitive sport, there is some uncertainty about the opposition, although for lock Ruben van Heerden, there is plenty of knowledge about their opponents.
“Both of our games against them were unfortunately cancelled but we are very blessed to have an excellent coaching staff here at the Cell C Sharks and a team behind the scenes that does all the analysing, so we know what Province will bring.
“They have a very strong set-piece, lineouts, scrum-time mauling, so we know what to expect from that side of the game. We are very well-prepared and looking forward to the challenge.”
Although Western Province have a highly regarded pack of forwards, he disagrees with any notion that that’s all they’re about.
“I certainly don’t believe that they are one-trick ponies, they’re a very good team. But they do have certain strengths that they go to and they do that really well. But if we are able to take their strong points away from them, we’ll find out on Saturday what else they bring.”
Nullifying the influence of Province’s pack is no easy feat, but ultimately it all comes down to effort and delivery, something head coach Sean Everitt regularly talks about.
“When you get to this level of rugby everyone is strong and everyone shows up on the day and wants to play,” van Heerden explains.
“A lot of it comes down to the technical side, we’ve worked hard on nullifying what gives them strength and momentum – the lineouts, mauls and scrums – and in strengthening our own game because we know that’s what’s going to come.
“Training has been going very well and we’re very confident we can do the job on Saturday.”
Although he’s a forward, he acknowledges the role of his backline, and in particular, the midfield general who looks to play off any gains his forwards make, as well as providing momentum and keeping play in the right areas of the field.
“Curwin is incredibly influential for us,” he admits. “He’s our play-maker and he’s crucial to the way we want to play. As a forward, it’s great to have a guy like Curwin who always puts us on the front foot and gets the ball into the right areas. He makes our jobs as forwards that much easier.
“We have a solid flyhalf and we know he’ll do the job for us on Saturday.”
A big weekend beckons with a chance to secure the ultimate prize, something that truly excites him.
“It would be extremely special to get into a Currie Cup final. This is one of the oldest rugby competitions in the world and that in itself is very special, so to win a prestigious trophy like the Currie Cup would be amazing. This competition is the cornerstone of South African rugby and I can’t see that changing, so for us to be in the final would be a tremendous achievement.”