Fierce battle for forward places at Bulls keeps Ruan Vermaak on his toes

14 May 2024 - 15:22
By Mahlatse Mphahlele
Lock Ruan Vermaak says there is competition among loose forwards at the Bulls.
Image: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images Lock Ruan Vermaak says there is competition among loose forwards at the Bulls.

Ruan Vermaak cannot afford to rest on his laurels because competition for places among loose forwards at the Bulls is fierce. 

The utility loose forward, who has played in different positions including blindside flanker and eighthman and is now excelling at lock, is among the key players for coach Jake White as they continue their charge for the knockout stages of the United Rugby Championship.  

The Bulls host Italian side Benetton at Loftus on Saturday (2pm) looking to tighten their grip on a top six place with Glasgow Warriors, Leinster, Munster, Stormers and Ulster and start thinking about the quarterfinals.

Benetton beat the Sharks 25-24 in Durban on Saturday. 

“One of the benefits of playing for a club such as the Bulls is there is competition for places, which is good because it keeps you on your toes. You can’t get complacent during the season and I am grateful for the competition,” Vermaak said on Tuesday. 

The Bulls go into the match with their confidence sky high after overcoming log leaders the Warriors 40-34 at the weekend.

Vermaak said the Pretoria giants are happy with the 2pm kickoff on the highveld. 

“[A start at] 2pm is not only tough for the opposition, we also feel it a bit, but we will take everything that helps and playing at 2pm is one of those things.

“We are looking forward to the game against Benetton, we know they are a quality side, but for us, in the next two games before we get to the knockout stages, we want to get maximum points. 

“We are taking it week by week. We are focusing on Benetton this weekend and there is no extra pressure on us. We are focusing on ourselves to make sure we get the job done at the weekend. 

“We expect a physical game from Benetton, they are a quality side and they play an 80-minutes game with physicality. They keep on coming and they also have a bit of flair about them. We will have to make sure we prepare well.” 

Vermaak has been used in various roles by White but he has settled in at lock now and is enjoying every moment. 

“I won’t say it was a big adjustment. The style is a bit different; I am happy to be playing lock.

“Players such as Victor [Matfield] and Bakkies [Botha] were role models for me growing up and being able to work with Ruan Nortjé is something special.

“Working with [assistant] coach Andries Bekker, who used to be one of the best locks in South Africa, has a huge influence in the way we do stuff. I will definitely say coach Andries is playing a huge role in my game.”