Vermaak relishing scrum challenge

PUBLISHED: January 17, 2024

DHL Stormers loosehead prop Ali Vermaak is looking forward to the challenge at scrum-time in Paris this weekend.

The DHL Stormers face a powerful Stade Francais side in their Round Four Investec Champions Cup encounter at the Stade Jean Bouin on Saturday.

Although the French side are yet to win in the competition this season, they have been impressive in the scrums, boasting an eclectic mix of Pacific Islanders, Argentines and even a South African in their pack.

Vermaak is looking forward to the challenge of facing different scrummagers, as the DHL Stormers push to secure a place in the Round of 16.

“One of the most significant opportunities offered by all the competitions we’re playing in, is that one is able to measure and compare yourself against some of the best props in the world who are, literally, of all shapes and sizes.

“It is no secret that props become a lot harder and tougher to scrum against as they reach their 30s. And with props normally being replaced between 45 and 60 minutes, you need to be on top of your game if you don’t want to be caught on skates when it comes to scrum time,” he said.

The DHL Stormers continued the quest to qualify for the Investec Champions Cup playoffs, when they secured a bonus-point victory over Sale Sharks in Cape Town last week, which was a fourth win in a row at DHL Stadium.

“We all have realised over the years that winning is a habit, and so is losing,” Vermaak explained. “To us as a group playing in different formats, it is very important to maintain that culture and winning momentum.

“The Sale Sharks established themselves as one of the top teams in England this year, so to beat them here in Cape Town was simply non-negotiable.”

The DHL Stormers have shown incredible depth in the front row, with veterans Vermaak and Brok Harris, together with Sti Sithole and youngsters Kwenzo Blose and Lee-Marvin Mazibuko pushing the team to dominate the scrum.

“I think it is a combination of things. Having the opportunity to discuss certain techniques on a daily basis with some of the world’s best players in your position, makes life a lot easier,” Vermaak explained.

“Since we’ve been playing together for a few years now, communication during training or games has become a lot easier in terms of understanding and rectification within a short timeframe.”

The former Maties star, who helped DHL Western Province win the Currie Cup in 2014 and 2017, is now into his 11th season as a DHL Stormer, having made his debut in Super Rugby in 2014.

“Being part of this exceptional group of players (including many World Cup winners) will definitely be one of the highlights of my career,” Vermaak said.

“Last year, we were runners up and two years ago we won the Vodacom URC. These highlights, together with playing my 50th game for the DHL Stormers, will always be special to me and my family. I am forever grateful to John Dobson for the opportunity of being included in this great squad.”