Bulls enforcer inspired by Ackers

Ruan Vermaak has credited former Springbok lock Johan Ackermann for helping him turn his career around and lock in with the Vodacom Bulls after a stint in Japan. DYLAN JACK reports.

Into his second season at Loftus Versfeld, Vermaak has continued in his role as Jake White’s go-to enforcer in the Vodacom URC.

The 26-year-old has started all 11 of his appearances this season, as the fourth-placed Vodacom Bulls have led the way for South African teams in the URC’s playoff race.

This comes after he played 19 games for the Bulls last season, forming an effective second-row pairing with co-captain and lineout commander Ruan Nortje.

However, it hasn’t been plain sailing for Vermaak to get to this point, as after getting his professional breakthrough across the Jukskei with the Lions, he opted to make the move to Japan in 2020.

That decision would be transformational for the then 22-year-old, as he was able to serve a mentorship under Ackermann at the Red Hurricanes.

“It wasn’t only external factors, it wasn’t just about the rugby, there was stuff going on in my personal life as well that made me decide to go to Japan,” Vermaak explained.

“I learned a lot from being coached by Johan Ackermann, to be able to work with him. He was a Springbok lock. The stuff that he taught me is what I have implemented in my game since I’ve been back in South Africa.

“That was huge for me. The big thing for me was being able to play under coach Johan and learn from him.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to play in two or three different competitions at a young age, which is something special. I feel really privileged,” Vermaak added.

“Those two years in Japan, I have only have good things to say about it. I learned a lot, so I was very fortunate and grateful to be part of that.”

Having held out to beat league leaders Glasgow Warriors 40-34, the Bulls will next host Benetton in the penultimate round of the URC, with the Italian side also pushing for a playoff place after stunning the Sharks in Durban.

“We are looking forward to Benetton. We know they are going to be a quality side,” Vermaak said. “We want to get maximum points from these next two games before the knockout stage. We are taking it week by week and are just focused on the game against Benetton this weekend.

“There isn’t any unncessary external pressure. It’s just to focus on making sure we get the job done this weekend. We are expecting a physical game from Benetton. They have a lot of fight, as we saw last weekend. They play an 80-minute game and keep coming at you, but they also have a bit of flair as well.”

Photo: Christiaan Kotze/Gallo Images

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