Ironman Van Heerden is the steel behind the Stormers

rugby15 May 2024 12:45| © SuperSport
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While the headlines often celebrate the DHL Stormers for the dazzling displays of their creative outside backs, it's an ironman pack that lays the platform, embodied by the tireless work rate and durability of Ruben van Heerden.

The imposing lock leads the 2023/24 Vodacom United Rugby Championship in completed tackles (200) and the DHL Stormers in minutes played (1 395).

Van Heerden joined the DHL Stormers in the middle of last season and quickly established himself as a vital cog in the tight five.

Previously regarded as a No 4 lock, he has this season embraced the responsibility of calling the lineout.

The 26-year-old earned his first invitation to a Springbok alignment camp in March on the back of several standout performances, and has since put pen to paper on a DHL Stormers contract extension until 2027.

“I’m loving playing as much rugby as possible,” Van Heerden said of the role he's been given by DHL Stormers Director of Rugby John Dobson.

“I’m honestly the guy who hates going off the field, I hate being subbed!

“I love the last 10, 15 minutes of a game when you really have to dig deep. You’re tired [but] you have to go into those dark places.

“My progression as a five lock has been good and again, I’d like to credit [Forwards Coach] Rito Hlungwani so much in regards to that. He is really my mentor in the lineouts and has been helping me a lot.

“So my focus is just to keep building and getting better and learning as much as I can, you can never stop learning. I could not be happier with where my rugby is going and the new life that I have with the DHL Stormers.

“This is a special group of players and coaches here and I want to be part of what is coming next for this team.”


Dobson needs no convincing about Van Heerden's influence in the DHL Stormers set-up, which is why his contract has been extended.

“Ruben has been a great addition and has really been a key player over the last 18 months,” said Dobson.

“He has shown impressive leadership qualities this season in calling the lineouts and was rightly rewarded with his inclusion in the recent Springbok alignment camp.”

Five log points from a thrilling 44-21 bonus-point win at Dragons RFC last week in the URC saw the Stormers remain in fifth position on the standings.

As one of 10 teams still in the running for a playoff place with two rounds remaining in the regular season, the Capetonians face another big challenge against Connacht at the Dexcom Stadium on Saturday.

Scarred by a winless tour earlier in the season, Dobson’s charges are especially motivated to perform in Galway where they have yet to taste victory.

“We keep speaking about how bad our tour was at the start of the URC, and now it’s like you’re driving on dirt roads trying to make up for those points we missed there,” said Van Heerden.

“But we’re confident and we’re positive about where we can still end up in the URC and how things can play out.

"Look at Munster last year... anything can happen.”