Stormers ‘driving on dirt roads’ to URC final

The Stormers remain positive about how the URC can still play out.

A passionate Ruben van Heerden believes that the DHL Stormers can follow Vodacom URC title-holders Munster’s path and finish stronger than ever this season.

Munster wrote themselves into rugby folklore by ending the Stormers’ then record-winning run at Cape Town Stadium last April before the Red Army returned to Cape Town a month later to dethrone the defending champions and win their first major silverware since 2011.

Despite finishing the regular season in fifth spot and after a disappointing start to the campaign, Graham Rowntree’s men claimed away victories over the Glasgow Warriors and Leinster in the quarter-finals and semi-finals that sent them back to the Mother City.

The Stormers are currently in fifth place on the URC standings with five rounds until the play-offs, and speaking on the Behind the Ruck podcast with former Springboks Rudy Paige and Juan de Jongh, Van Heerden reflected on their winless tour earlier in 2023-24 while acknowledging his work rate and game time.

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“I’m loving playing as much rugby as possible,” the 26-year-old lock said. “I’m honestly the guy who hates going off the field; I hate being subbed!

“I love the last 10, 15 minutes of a game when you really have to dig deep. Jy’s moeg [but] you have to go into those dark places.

“And we keep speaking about how bad our tour was at the start of the URC, and now it’s like you’re driving on dirt roads trying to make up for those points we missed there.

“But we’re confident and we’re positive about where we can still end up in the URC and how things can play out. Look at Munster last year; still a bit painful [for us] … but anything can happen.”

Van Heerden, who joined the Stormers in 2022, is loving every minute playing for the Capetonians, but the Alberton-born skyscraper shared a ‘heart-wrenching’ experience as a teenager watching Western Province beat the Sharks in the 2012 Currie Cup final at Kings Park.

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“I remember for my 16th birthday – I was a big Sharks supporter – my parents saying we’re going to fly to Durban, sleep in the hotel, and watch the Currie Cup final,” he said.

“And we’re sitting behind the poles and I’m screaming for my Natal and Sharks boytjies, and next thing Jubba [De Jongh] is under the poles – Gangham Style – and I think, ‘jis, jy’s terrible’… breaking 16-year-old hearts.

“At that stage, I thought I’d never play for the Stormers, but honestly now I can tell you there’s no team that I’ve enjoyed playing for more and I really love the Stormers more than anything.”

The Stormers next face Ospreys at Cape Town Stadium on April 20 in the URC.

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