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Ironman Nortje ready for tough challenge from Leinster in URC semi

10 June 2022 - 10:12
Ruan Nortje of Vodacom Bulls during the United Rugby Championship 2021/22 match against Benetton at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria on April 23 2022.
Ruan Nortje of Vodacom Bulls during the United Rugby Championship 2021/22 match against Benetton at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria on April 23 2022.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Bulls lock Ruan Nortje is bracing himself for a bruising battle against fancied Leinster during the anticipated United Rugby Championship (URC) semifinal at the RDS Arena in Dublin on Friday.

Nortje said he also used the inaugural season to catch the eye of Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber for the coming international season that starts with a three-match series against Wales next month.

As a reward for his consistent performances during the season, Nortje was last week named the “Ironman” of URC for playing the most minutes in the 18-round league phase.

As he prepared for the match against Leinster, where he is going to test himself against a team laden with Irish internationals, Nortje had the words of his father in his mind.

“My father is the hardest working man I know, who never gives up, and that’s the way I grew up,” he said this week.

“You just put your head down and keep working forward. Every single week my dad will tell me that whenever I get up off the ground, that next first 10 metres is the most important.

“I always have to get up and sprint to get back into place. That’s stuck in my head all these years and it makes a massive difference in the back of my mind. It’s always in my subconscious,” Nortje said.

Nortje admitted that at the start of the URC season there was some uncertainty in his own mind as to how he would measure up against the international opposition. But several months later he’s emerged as one of the young stars of the competition.

“When the season started it was a massive challenge. I didn’t know where I stood and what to expect from the overseas clubs, and whether you’re on a par with them.

“It was a massive challenge for me and I was ready to take it on and take every opportunity I was given. I just wanted to give everything for this badge on my chest.

“There were a few games where I was in a dark tunnel, but it’s about how you work through that towards the light at the end of it. It was a tough season, but I am thankful for pushing through and the opportunities I’ve been given.”

And now he’s relishing the opportunity to take on a Leinster team that will certainly test him and his teammates.

“Leinster is one of the best teams in the world. We have to embrace that challenge and enjoy it, but also give it our best shot. I always want to challenge myself to become better and not become stagnant.

“I want to improve. It’s important for me in every game, no matter the opposition, to improve. This semifinal is an awesome opportunity for me to test myself against some great Test players.

“Any player wants to test himself against the best and what better than Leinster. It’s a massive opportunity to play against such a quality side. I’m looking forward to it.”

The Bulls Team:

STARTERS (15-1): Canan Moodie (Pretoria), David Kriel (Tuine), Cornal Hendricks (Northam Rhinos), Harold Vorster (Northam Rhinos), Madosh Tambwe (Pretoria), Chris Smith (Harlequin), Zak Burger (Tuine); Elrigh Louw (UP Tuks), Arno Botha (ABE Midas Naka Bulle), Marcell Coetzee (ABE Midas Naka Bulle, CAPT), Ruan Nortje (ABE Midas Naka Bulle), Walt Steenkamp (Tuine), Mornay Smith (Betway Centurion), Johan Grobbelaar (UP Tuks), Gerhard Steenekamp (ABE Midas Naka Bulle).

IMPACT (16-23): Bismarck du Plessis (Betway Centurion), Simphiwe Matanzima (ABE Midas Naka Bulle), Robert Hunt (Harlequin), Janko Swanepoel (Pretoria), WJ Steenkamp (Tuine); Embrose Papier (UP Tuks), Morne Steyn (Tuine), Kurt-Lee Arendse (Betway Centurion).


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