Venter raring to go

PUBLISHED: February 13, 2024

Hooker Andre-Hugo Venter can’t wait to get going again as the DHL Stormers resume their Vodacom URC campaign after a three-week break.

The DHL Stormers are back in action this week, as the Vodacom URC resumes following a short mid-season break.

A jam-packed festive and new year’s schedule saw the DHL Stormers play seven games in eight weeks in December and January, including local derbies against the Vodacom Bulls and Hollywoodbets Sharks.

“It was a busy festive season for us with all the fixtures. They were all quite difficult, so there was no slacking off during training,” Venter said. “We had to go full metal jacket every week.

“The break came at a great time. I think we were feeling a lot of the punches. But we are really looking forward to getting going again. Even though I am thankful for the break, I am excited to start playing again.”

The DHL Stormers finished the first half of the season on a run of five consecutive wins in all competitions, breaking into the top eight of the Vodacom URC and qualifying for a home Investec Champions Cup playoff.

The mid-season break has allowed for new combinations to be blooded during friendlies and a few stalwarts to recover from injuries.

“We are in a good space,” Venter said. “Saying that, you are only as good as your last game. The momentum that we gained from those wins is massive, but at the end of the day, it’s all about whether you can pitch up again on Saturday.

“I think the team is in a great space. We are really looking forward to get firing again. There are a few new combinations and guys coming back from injury. We really want to carry this momentum forward and into the next match.”

Into his third full season with the DHL Stormers, Venter is enjoying his time in the middle of the front row.

“Every time I run onto the field, whether I’m starting or on the bench, I just want to make a positive impact,” he said.

“There’s a few of us who play off the bench together, especially the front row, and I think we’ve found each other quite nicely this season. What’s always lekker is that it doesn’t really matter who you play with, in terms of props, because we are getting to a stage where we understand everybody and can just interlink without any issues.

“There’s so much talent in the DHL Stormers squad, so it doesn’t matter who starts and who is on the bench, everyone just wants to get on and make a difference.”

Venter credits the DHL Stormers coaching staff for the progress made by the team in the scrums, which have been a source of strength this season.

“We have an incredible coaching staff with Rito (Hlungwani), Human (Kriek), Shimmy (Hanyani Shimange) and Brok (Harris) that run the show for the forwards. They are always coming up with new things and techniques. There’s a lot of individual training as well. A lot more credit should go to the coaches. Brok and Shimmy work hard with us in the scrums. Our forwards coaches are doing an incredible job.”

Next up for the DHL Stormers is a trip to Durban for the second coastal derby of the season against the Hollywoodbets Sharks at Hollywoodbets Kings Park.

The DHL Stormers showed plenty of character to hold on for a 16-15 win in Cape Town in December, and Venter expects another physical encounter on Saturday.

“We are really looking forward to going to Durban this weekend. It’s a tough place to play, it’s very humid and hot around this time of the year. So if I’m selected to play, I’m really looking forward to it.

“The Hollywoodbets Sharks had one of their best performances against us in December. We just got away with a win. They played really well. So, playing against any South African team, you know it’s going to be physical and a battle between the forwards.

“We need to stay calm and focused and not overthink things after the break. We need to be switched on and ready for every punch that they throw. It’s going to be a massive game.

“There are no more off weekends anymore. We just need to keep up with the intensity, stay composed and punch first.”