Ali Vermaak is valued as an immense asset to the DHL Stormers because the veteran is called on to fill the sizeable boots of Springbok juggernaut Steven Kitshoff.
Vermaak has been a sturdy understudy to stalwart Kitshoff since making his franchise debut in 2014, which includes sharing in the ecstasy of winning the inaugural Vodacom United Rugby Championship.
The former Maties star, who also helped DHL Western Province hoist the Carling Currie Cup in 2014 and 2017, relishes any opportunity to play his role in the continued success of the DHL Stormers.
Kitshoff is heading to Ireland to join Ulster at the close of the 2022/23 campaign, and Vermaak is champing at the bit to lend his shoulder to the front-row cause, this season and beyond.
“It’s been an awesome privilege being able to represent the DHL Stormers for so many years, and I’ll hopefully continue to do so when Kitsie leaves,” said Vermaak, who is set to feature in the Heineken Champions Cup clash against London Irish in Brentford on Sunday.
He has been hailed by DHL Stormers head coach John Dobson as “one of the most underrated props in South Africa”, and that unequivocal support has meant the world to the 33-year-old Vermaak after overcoming his share of setbacks.
He suffered a ruptured achilles tendon during a Carling Currie Cup fixture against Griquas in 2021, after a remarkable recovery from a career-threatening neck injury in 2019.
The Gqeberha-born powerhouse has grown from strength to strength, backing up Kitshoff in last season’s title-winning run and starting five of his seven matches in the 2022/23 Vodacom URC.
“It’s been an amazing year with Dobbo as head coach, he really creates the space for everybody to feel important,” Vermaak said. “And more than that, for everybody to understand their roles in the challenging competitions we’re currently playing in.”
Looking forward to this week’s encounter with London Irish at the Gtech Community Stadium, Vermaak is excited to potentially pit himself against seasoned props such as Australian Ollie Hoskins, along with former DHL Stormers hooker Mike Williemse.
“The set piece will always be a challenge when playing the northern hemisphere clubs. They seldom have a prop younger than 25, it’s a lot of internationals and experienced guys.
“So we certainly know beforehand the scrums will be a good challenge, and especially playing on different surfaces other than grass and in the wet weather.
“We expect nothing less than the best from London Irish this weekend, they are a quality side, but the belief is there in the DHL Stormers pack and we’ve worked really hard, so we’re up for the challenge.”