Sharks youngster Kerron van Vuuren says making his first Vodacom Super Rugby start in the win against the Lions was a dream come true.
The 23-year-old was thrust into the starting team last week following the suspension of regular hooker Akker van der Merwe and the injury-enforced absence of experienced backup Craig Burden.
While it was another youngster in Curwin Bosch who received plenty of plaudits after the Sharks went on to hammer the Lions 42-5 at Ellis Park, Van Vuuren went about his business efficiently, making 23m from 9 carries – beating two defenders in the process – while also making a total of 11 tackles.
‘I was a little overwhelmed,’ Van Vuuren told the media on Tuesday. ‘It was such an exciting and nervous moment, growing up and being a Sharks supporter my whole life and always wanting to play for this union.
‘It was a dream come true and really special. Going up to Ellis Park and beating the Lions is such a tough task. To win by that scoreline is an absolute fairytale.’
Statistically, Van Vuuren outshone Bok incumbent and stand-in Lions captain Malcolm Marx, which should boost his confidence in the coming weeks.
‘Obviously, it is always in the back of your mind, going up against a Bok hooker,’ Van Vuuren said. ‘I had a lot of pressure on myself. But I used it as a motivation to bring the best out of myself.
‘It has happened quite quickly, in the blink of an eye. But I do my best to try and do all my basics and preparation right, do all my planning so that when the moment comes I can do my job well.
‘It was a good experience and a big boost to my confidence, to be able to go against one of the best hookers in the world and do my job successfully. I want to use it as a stepping stone to get to higher accolades.’
After paying his dues and working his way through the Sharks junior structures and also enjoying a short stint with the Kings last year, Van Vuuren feels everything is coming at the right time.
‘This is now the culmination of a couple of years coming together. I did my time with the U19s and U21s, played a bit in the Rugby Challenge and got drafted into the Currie Cup. I think I have gone through the right process and it is time for me to start stepping up into the big leagues.’
With Van der Merwe still suspended, Burden only returning in eight weeks, and Chiliboy Ralepelle still facing question marks over his career due to a doping allegation, Van Vuuren will have at least two more games to impress, starting with the Jaguares on Saturday, where he could oppose veteran Agustín Creevy.
‘The coach was telling me this morning I am going up against one of the best hookers of all time. But that is perfect, I am really going to enjoy it. I will learn a lot, get that experience, but I will also come to the party and won’t let him off easily.
‘Being consistent has been a big chat of ours,’ Van Vuuren added. ‘It has been a troubling thing around the Sharks for the last couple of years. We are just going to take it week by week, focusing on the next game and putting the last game to bed early.
‘The Jags are a quality outfit. Technically they are an international team. We are definitely going to have to be on our A-game this weekend.’
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