There is a big responsibility resting on the young but broad shoulders of the Blue Bulls forwards ahead of their Currie Cup semifinal against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
Not only do they have to ensure parity with the imposing KZN pack but they also have a big demand placed on them in terms of work-rate in the new expansive game-plan being pushed by coach John Mitchell.
Ruben van Heerden, the 19-year-old lock, is one of the young guns who has come on in leaps and bounds this year, and he is delighted with the extra load, and by implication faith, that Mitchell has put in his pack in this year’s Currie Cup.
“The game will be won up front and we know what the Sharks bring there, they’re big and strong. We’re ready for that and excited for the challenge. John Mitchell’s game-plan is very quick and us forwards tend to run a lot, I’ve lost three kilograms since the Junior World Cup in June.
“But that’s where rugby is going, I don’t think there’s place for 130kg forwards any more, we have to be much more mobile. But if you look at where I was at the start of the competition, I’m a totally different player and mentally too.
“I’ve grown a lot and I hope you can see that on the field on Saturday,” Van Heerden, who has a 95% tackle success rate this season, said at Loftus Versfeld.
The Affies product said the Bulls pack had shown what they could do last weekend against a Pumas side that is very much based on their experience and power up front; the Bulls hammered them 52-32 to sneak into the semifinals.
“The Pumas had a very strong pack and probably the best maul in the whole of the Currie Cup. But we prepared hard and did really well against them. They had an older pack, but we stood up well, and it was the best thing for us before the semifinal against a Sharks team with similar strengths,” Van Heerden said.