DHL Stormers forward Ernst van Rhyn has played enough at the Danie Craven Stadium to know that there will be a special atmosphere for the Vodacom United Rugby Championship match against Benetton on Friday night.
The Vodacom United Rugby Championship title-holders are back in Stellenbosch on Friday for the first time since beating Connacht in the season-opener, and they will face Italy’s Benetton in the final round of Vodacom URC league action.
For Van Rhyn, the Danie Craven Stadium has a special place in his heart as it is where he broke through as a Maties stalwart in the Varsity Cup.
“It’s definitely a special memory that you hold onto,” said Van Rhyn. “A full Danie Craven on a Monday evening, packed with students, is a unique rugby ground. I had the privilege of lifting the Varsity Cup there in front of a full stadium in 2018.
“What makes it special is that if you go back in history, a lot of Springboks were produced there. It’s a very prestigious club in South African rugby so it’s quite special to know that you are walking in those footsteps.
“It has a unique vibe. The setting is incredible with the mountain behind you and the sun setting late in the afternoon. So I am looking forward to Friday and hopefully I can add to that list of memories.”
Van Rhyn expects Benetton to present a tough challenge. The Treviso-based side travelled to South Africa with a squad packed with Italian internationals and last week they ran the Cell C Sharks close in 76-point thriller in Durban.
“They are a quality team. They shocked the Vodacom Bulls in the Rainbow Cup final. I think everyone realised that this isn’t just any other team. It is a team that wants to compete and win.
“We also lost our opening game of the Vodacom URC last season in Treviso. They are tricky and have some quality players with good experience. They are well-balanced and have built well over the past few years.
“They play some exciting rugby, as well. If you look at the game against the Cell C Sharks, you can see they want to run the ball and play an expansive and exciting game. That makes them dangerous. A lot of their forwards play for the national team so they also have a decent pack. They are far past the stage when you could call them underdogs.
“We will have to make sure we are at our best. These last two weeks have been focusing on us and where we can be better from the past two games. We will be ready and expect a great game against a quality side.”
Van Rhyn already has many great memories at the ground and is hoping to add to that on Friday.
“Playing at the DC was where I got my first taste of senior rugby with Varsity Cup and where I spent four years studying. I also had the privilege to captain the team in the opening game of the Vodacom URC against Connacht at Danie Craven. So it’s almost come full circle.
“We are looking to make a good end to the league campaign. Hopefully we can make some more history and build more memories,” he added.