Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Focus on Bulls despite Bok camp call-up for Andre-Hugo Venter

The Stormers head into the clash with a perfect 7-0 winning record over the Bulls in the URC.

Stormers hooker Andre-Hugo Venter is fully focussed on the huge challenge of taking on the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in their massive United Rugby Championship (URC) North-South derby this weekend, despite his recent call-up to the Springbok alignment camp.

Venter was named among a group of 43 players that will be meeting in Cape Town next week as the Boks begin their preparations for the international season kicking off in June.

But Venter, who is the son of former Bok great Andre Venter, is not thinking about that yet and is hoping to make a big impression in his side’s very important URC match.

Humbled and honoured

“It’s truly humbling and I’m honoured to be selected for that (Bok alignment) group, but you are only as good as your last game,” Venter said at a press conference this week.

“I’m privileged to be part of that group, but it’s only going to be rewarding if I keep playing well and do my best. I just want to go onto the field and make a difference for the team.

“My focus is just on this weekend. The camp is only next week. What’s important is this weekend and the upcoming game.”

The Stormers head into the clash with a perfect 7-0 winning record over the Bulls in the URC, which includes two victories in Pretoria, but they know they will be up against a high-flying team currently sitting third on the table, while the Stormers are seventh.

“To be honest, the past is the past. You need to pitch up in every game and you have to be at your best. If you look at the past derbies, it is probably the biggest fixture in provincial rugby in South Africa,” said Venter.

“There are always going to be emotions, no matter who has the winning or losing streak. For us, it’s important to be at our best and not to get involved in the emotions. It’s another game where we are going to have to fight.”

Full house

A close to full house is expected for the game, after the Bulls announced over 30,000 tickets had been sold earlier in the week, and that number should be able to breach the 40,000 mark for what has become the most eagerly anticipated local derby on the South African rugby calendar.

Venter admitted the forward battle could be key to see who would come out on top in the clash as both forward packs attempted to give their exciting backlines the perfect platform to play off.

“It’s always tough going to Loftus. Altitude always plays a role. The crowd is always up for it, but hopefully we will see some Stormers flags that will push us on as well,” said Venter.

“It plays a massive role, seeing our fans in the crowd. We want to perform for them at the end of the day and put a smile on their face, so they can go home with pride.

“The Bulls are playing an unbelievable brand of rugby this season. It’s important, especially for our pack and front row, to pitch up physically. The Bulls have a great track record at home in the URC, and we know that with how the Bulls want to play, we also need to be physical.”

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