The Vodacom Bulls will begin their 2022/23 Vodacom United Rugby Championship campaign against an old foe – the Emirates Lions – and in the Tshwane-based side’s arsenal will be a man who knows the opposition side intimately, that is utility forward, Ruan Vermaak.
The hard-working and versatile 24-year-old will begin his first full season with the Vodacom Bulls after joining the side towards the back end of their 2021/22 campaign.
Vermaak, who represented the Emirates Lions in the Vodacom Super Rugby competition before heading to Japan to play for NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes from 2021, expressed his anticipation for the new season.
“I’m excited to be here and for the season ahead. We have taken a slightly different approach to our pre-season and the preparations are going exceptionally well. Everyone is excited to now play. We have all been working hard to be ready for the season,” said Vermaak.
The former SA Schools ‘A’ and Junior Springbok player had a small taste of what it is like representing the Vodacom Bulls when he made his debut for the side in the Carling Currie Cup, in a clash against eventual champions, Airlink Pumas, and he was also part of the squad that travelled to Wales to take on Ospreys in the Vodacom URC that same month.
He is ecstatic to be part of the Vodacom Bulls side under director of rugby, Jake White, who was the one who enticed the former Monument High School pupil to move to Loftus Versfeld.
“It was early in the year when I received a message from Coach Jake while I was still in Japan, and he asked if I was keen to join the Vodacom Bulls. As soon as the offer came, I didn’t have to even think about it, I signed,” said Vermaak.
“I really enjoyed my time in Japan and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have played there. I really learnt a lot given the different style of rugby – a running, quicker game. As South Africans, we have been used to a more physical type of rugby. I’m quite happy to have had an opportunity to add that aspect to my rugby.
“Now it is really amazing and a privilege to be in a group with such talented individuals here at Loftus. Playing alongside the talent we have here at the Vodacom Bulls brings out the best in a player. Every day we work hard to prove that we can compete within the team and add value. I consider myself very fortunate to be in this position.
“I really hope that I can contribute as much as possible, wherever and whenever the team feels I can add value on and off the field.”
In their season-opening match, the Vodacom Bulls will travel south to Johannesburg, where they will take on rivals, Emirates Lions in the long-standing Jukskei Derby.
Vermaak has been involved in a few cross-Jukskei battles and knows exactly what it is all about. He is now eager to represent the Vodacom Bulls when the new season gets underway.
“The Jukskei Derby goes back many, many years. It is one of South Africa’s biggest rugby rivalries. I am fortunate to be one of few who can say that they experienced it on both sides,” he said.
“I was on the opposition side for most of the derbies I have played in. For the Emirates Lions, a game against the Vodacom Bulls is always hyped up and they just want to make a statement, and it is always a good game.
“It is very important for us to start off the season on a strong note. We want to start with a win and will go into that gave wanting to give it our all. We are all looking forward to getting the season off to a start.”
Having played Vodacom Super Rugby, Carling Currie Cup and in the Japanese league, the lofty forward is keen to get some Vodacom URC and Heineken Cup mileage behind his name going into the 2022/23 season.
“The Vodacom URC has proven to be a tough competition where we get to face teams like Leinster and Munster, and we are able to measure ourselves against those top teams with talented players,” he said.
“It’s really a great milestone for South African rugby to have had two teams reaching the final and dominating throughout the previous season. We will be looking at continuing to grow in the Vodacom URC as well as the Heineken Champions Cup. I’m really excited for the season that lies ahead.”