Springbok tighthead prop Marcel van der Merwe began his professional rugby career at the Free State Cheetahs in 2011, where he went on to play alongside and scrum against a strong but raw loosehead from Limpopo by the name of Trevor Nyakane.
In 2013, Van der Merwe joined the Blue Bulls and made his Super Rugby debut for them the following year.
Nyakane followed the Welkom-born, Paarl Boys’ High School educated tighthead to Pretoria, with Van der Merwe then leaving for Toulon in June 2016.
The 29-year-old Van der Merwe will now return to the Bulls after four years in France and he will find Nyakane has not only switched to tighthead prop but has become an integral part of both the Bulls and Springbok teams.
There will be competition aplenty now for what new Bulls coach Jake White has called the most important position in the team, and Nyakane welcomes it.
Not only because it will push the 31-year-old to even greater heights but it will also help manage his workload.
Nyakane had very little respite in last year’s Super Rugby competition, starting every single game, all 17 of them.
Eventually all that physical strain adds up and it may have played a role in his unfortunate departure from the 2019 World Cup, after tearing a calf muscle in the second half of the opening game against the All Blacks.
“I played with Marcel at both Free State and the Bulls and I know the type of player he is, so it’s going to be amazing to have him in the squad. We can now look at alternating at tighthead, and it’s always great to be able to do that, but you also want to play of course. But it’s really difficult in a full season to play every game,” Nyakane told The Citizen at the One Cup of Pap Feeding Scheme on Tuesday, alongside fellow World Cup winners John Smit and Joel Stransky, who were also helping to hand out food parcels.
White has been quick to make changes at the Bulls and Nyakane expects exciting times when the squad finally gets together again after the national lockdown.
“It’s always exciting having a new coach to change things up a bit and I look forward to meeting up with Jake and everyone else when we go back to Loftus,” Nyakane said.
“The coach has obviously been bulking up the squad, which only makes it easier to rotate and manage players, and to have fresh blood coming in will be a positive.”