For new players who get the chance to shine – and he really has – Cell C Sharks lock Ruben van Heerden admits to a sense of pride at wearing the Black and White jersey and following in the footsteps of legends of the game.
He’s had to compete hard within the team to stake a claim for inclusion and when he’s earned the chance, he’s shone.
“I’ve enjoyed maturing into my role,” he explains. “I feel really blessed to have played my first Vodacom Super Rugby season and I felt that I just grew more and more with every game and got more confidence each time I played. It’s been a wonderful season so far, I have no complaints!”
Talking about the opportunities he’s had, he adds that, “Every time I’ve pulled on the Cell C Sharks jersey has been a blessing. There have been many talented Sharks locks before me and every time I wear the jersey I want to do it proud. That’s something we’re focusing on in the Currie Cup now, looking back at all the previous guys who have worn the jersey before us and the significance of that.”
But back to the Currie Cup…
The win against Western Province proved just how good this team can be and he explains what was happening within the camp after a disappointing start to their campaign.
“We took the loss to Griquas very personally and we were keen to bounce back against Province. We knew what it would take to beat them and we did that. But we’re not looking back any more, we’ve passed that and for now it’s about growing, every week. Our word for the Currie Cup is “Growth” and every weekend is a new opportunity and a new challenge.
“We now focus on travelling to Nelspruit. We know what they can do, what they’re capable of and we aren’t going to take them lightly. The guys have shown at training that they want to get stuck in and put in a physical performance.”
The Phakasi Pumas have lost all three of their matches but things could have so easily ended the other way. They lost by one point to the Lions and eight each to Griquas and the Blue Bulls and the SuperSport Challenge finalists are facing desperation times.
“They play a lot to the character of their coach Jimmy Stonehouse,” van Heerden explains. “He’s a very hard, physical and disciplined man and we know that’s what they’ll look to bring. Plenty of physicality, from minute one, and we as a pack need to front up and embrace the challenge. The three games they’ve already played, they could so easily have won and those are the small margins in rugby. We aren’t going to take them lightly.
“They are a well-drilled side and their execution has been pretty decent. Jimmy Stonehouse is a brilliant coach, we know what they’re capable of, we need to be at our best on Saturday.”
As defending champions, does he feel the pressure on the Cell C Sharks to emulate their 2018 accomplishment?
“That’s honestly not something we’re thinking or talking about,” he admits. “The end goal is to win the Currie Cup, but we’re talking it week by week and every week is a new game and a new challenge and when we can get passed this challenge, then we face next week’s challenge.