Van Heerden knows the enemy better than most

PUBLISHED: April 5, 2023

As a former Exeter Chief, Ruben van Heerden knows exactly what lies in wait for his DHL Stormers teammates at Sandy Park this weekend.

While Van Heerden will not be able to play in the Heineken Champions Cup quarterfinal himself, having represented the Chiefs in the competition earlier this season, he knows just how tough it will be in Exeter.

He will be watching with interest as his current team take on his former team in a huge knock-out clash on Saturday, although wishing he could be out there in amongst it.

“From an individual point of view, I am absolutely gutted that I am not allowed to play,” he said.

“That said, the boys have a great challenge this weekend. The Chiefs are a tough team to beat at home. They have only lost one game at home this season. That was against Saracens. They are a different animal at home. The crowd gets behind them. The Exeter guys know that Sandy Park field so well.

“I think our boys have a well-balanced plan. We have good forward play, a power game and we can run. The Chiefs are known for their forward play, so it will be important not to give them 22-metre entries and to play a disciplined game. The forward match-up is going to be very good.

“In broad strokes, it will be an arm-wrestle,” Van Heerden added. “Playoffs are always like that. I think we will match them up front. I have no doubt our backline will take them on. I wouldn’t be surprised if the DHL Stormers put up a massive performance.

“I have no doubt the guys flying over to Exeter will get the job done. I know we have it in us to go to Sandy Park and come back with the win,” he said.

Van Heerden was impressed with the way the DHL Stormers went about things in their 32-28 victory against Harlequins at DHL Stadium, to set up this mouth-watering quarterfinal.

“It was a great performance,” Van Heerden said. “These Premiership teams offer a different challenge to the teams we have in the Vodacom URC. To see the boys take up that challenge was great. Harlequins are known for their attacking rugby and we fought fire with fire.

“The boys are flying high and rightly so. From what I know about this group, even when we are flying, we are still grafting and we know there is a different challenge coming in Exeter this weekend,” he said.

Van Heerden made his DHL Western Province debut against Windhoek Draught Griquas and was delighted to have the opportunity to wear the famous hooped jersey.

“It was really cool wearing the hoops. I know there is a lot of history in that jersey and a lot of pride in it. It was a good experience, wearing that Currie Cup jersey for the first time. It wasn’t a great match and we didn’t play our best rugby at all. Credit to Windhoek Draught Griquas, they really turned up in the second half and played quite well. It’s a long campaign.

“Winning the Currie Cup is definitely in our sights. It still ranks high on the bucket list for any rugby player in South Africa. There is so much history in it. If you ask any rugby player in South Africa, the answer would be a resounding yes,” he said.