Bulls still searching for that "complete 80 min performance" – Akker

rugby27 February 2024 05:44| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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Akker van der Merwe © Gallo Images

The DHL Stormers are a “complete team” and that has been the difference between them and the Vodacom Bulls during the Vodacom United Rugby Championship derbies over the past few years.

That’s the view of the “angry warthog”, Akker van der Merwe, as he gears up for his second derby knowing full well the weight of the lopsided results on the Bulls over the past few years.

Van Der Merwe, who bolstered the Bulls after leaving Sale Sharks last season, knows the games in South Africa don’t get a lot bigger than this, but knows also that the Bulls need to up their own game if they are to have a chance of stopping the losing streak they are currently on against their southern rivals.

“They’ve been able to give a complete performance,” Van der Merwe said looking forward to this weekend’s showdown at Loftus Versfeld.

“Their setpiece is good, their defence is good and their kicking game is good. All their key points work well and if we can get to the same level then it will be a great game.

“We’ve had a few games where our key points are good, but always there is something lacking in one area or another. We need an 80 minute performance - we haven’t given one of those yet this season, and we know if we can cut out the mistakes then everything will come right for us.”

It’s not all doom and gloom - the Bulls are currently third in the URC standings and have every intention of claiming a top four place. But their lopsided results against the Stormers are something that has been rubbed in their faces a lot, and something they desperately want to change.

Van der Merwe added that the Bulls don’t want to make the occasion bigger than it is, even though the team are encouraging fans to #filluploftus and more than 30 000 tickets have been sold for the derby thus far.

“We don’t want to make the occasion too big because then we will be a deer in the headlights. We know it is a big occasion but the more we focus on ourselves and the stuff we can do, the better it will be for us,” he added.

Van der Merwe, who has three Springbok caps from 2018, before he moved to Sale Sharks, was ignored despite some good performances for the recent Springbok alignment camps, while two younger Bulls hookers - Jan-Hendrik Wessels and Johan Grobbelaar - were called up.

But that has made him more determined to play well and give his all for the side he plays for.

“I could easily fall into a hole, and feel sorry for myself. But to me I’d rather work harder and be at a place where there are two good hookers. For the Bulls it is massive to have two young hookers at the alignment camp. The future at hooker for the Bulls looks very good at the moment,” he smiles.

“When something like that happens, I go back and look at all my games and see where I can improve. I won’t ever say I’m a complete player and have mastered everything. There is always room for improvement and that drives me to be a better player.”

Asked why he and his family decided to return to South Africa, Van der Merwe laughed and said “my English airtime ran out.”

“I enjoyed my rugby there but it was only rugby. We flourish as a family here more than there. And I’m not one who thinks Oumas and Oupas should only see their grandkids once a year. That isn’t good.

“That, and the weather. The kids need to play outside, get dirty and build mud cakes, for instance. I’m tired of sitting indoors helping them build lego.”