Stormers need to land first punch against Sharks in URC battle

Stormers fans cheer their team on while waving their flags

The inaugural United Rugby Championship-winning Stormers resume their season on Saturday with a coastal derby against the Sharks (5.05pm kick-off) in Durban. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency/ANA

Published Feb 16, 2024


The old adage “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree” certainly rings true in the case of Stormers hooker Andre-Hugo Venter.

The son of former Springbok hardman Andre, the 22-year-old already shows plenty of traits of his legendary father – being a tough-as-nails player among those.

And if his career keeps following its current trajectory, he is destined to reach the same heights as his old man.

Venter has been one of the standout players for the Cape side this season, and there is already early talk of him being a possible Bok contender in a year in which the world champions could look at reinforcing certain positions ahead of the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

More breakthrough performances

But the Bloemfontein native will have his focus squarely on producing more breakthrough performances as the inaugural United Rugby Championship winners resume their season on Saturday with a coastal derby against the Sharks (5.05pm kick-off) in Durban.

The Stormers won their last five games on the trot, three in the URC, and the Sharks were the closest to upsetting them at the end of December in Cape Town.

It was a nail-biter at the Cape Town Stadium that ended 16-15 after a valiant performance by the Durban side.

More of the same is expected in the Shark Tank, and Venter and his teammates are bracing for the challenge that awaits.

“We need to stay calm and focused and not over-think things after the break. We need to be switched on and ready for every punch that they throw. It’s going to be a massive game,” Venter told the Stormers website.

“We are in a good space. In saying that, you are only as good as your last game.

“The momentum that we gained from those wins is massive, but at the end of the day, it’s all about whether you can pitch up again on Saturday.

“We just need to keep up with the intensity, stay composed, and punch first.”

Making the step up

It’s his third season with the Cape side, and after playing behind Boks like Joseph Dweba and Scarra Ntubeni, and another promising youngster in JJ Kotze, Venter stepped up this season.

Week in and week out he is challenging for a starting berth, and he will make the selection calls at hooker tough on his coaches as the season goes on.

Venter welcomed the break after playing seven matches in eight weeks over December and January.

Still, he is raring to go again, with his eyes focused on the Sharks at Kings Park on Saturday afternoon.

“It was a busy festive season for us with all the fixtures. They were all quite difficult, so there was no slacking off during training. We went full metal jacket every week,” Venter said.

“The break came at a great time. I think we were feeling a lot of the punches. But we are looking forward to getting going again. Even though I’m thankful for the break, I’m excited to start playing again.”

Meanwhile, The Boland Rugby Union announced on Thursday that Hawies Fourie will become their new head coach, starting on March 1.

Fourie will leave his current post at the Cheetahs, and return to the province where he made his name as a provincial flyhalf and was the head coach previously.

“It is special to come back to the very union where it all started for me as a coach,” Fourie said in a statement on Thursday.

“There is no reason why we cannot get back in the top six teams in the country, and that will be my aim when I get back to Wellington.”