Akker van der Merwe says he is happy to keep rotating at the Sharks, but does not want to be typecast as a super-sub. DYLAN JACK reports.
The 27-year-old has been nominated for the Best off the Bench award in the BrightRock Players Choice Awards. He faces competition from Lions flank Marnus Schoeman, Springbok prop Steven Kitshoff and Blitzbok forward Zain Davids.
The players, under the banner of the South African rugby players organisation MyPlayers, created the awards in 2017. Except for the Fans’ Choice category, players vote for the winners in all categories. The winners will be announced next Tuesday at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg.
Van der Merwe has seen plenty more action in the starting lineup since joining the Sharks from the Lions, where in 2017 he predominantly provided cover to Malcolm Marx. The hooker made a total of 11 starts out of the 17 matches that the Sharks played in the 2018 Super Rugby season, coming off the bench on four occasions.
He was, however, rotated a lot more with captain Chiliboy Ralepelle during the successful Currie Cup season, making three starts and three appearances as a substitute.
Van der Merwe tells SARugbymag.co.za that while he is wary of being stereotyped as someone who can only play off the bench, he is always willing to put the team first.
‘The award was a bit of a surprise because I feel that I have had a lot more starts this year than coming off the bench, ‘ Van der Merwe said. ‘I wouldn’t say that I like the word “super-sub” a lot because at the Lions I was used off the bench a lot. I hate the word, to be perfectly honest.
‘Obviously, you want to start every game,’ Van der Merwe added. ‘But at the end of the day, it is not about you, it is about the team and whatever is best for the team. Chili is an amazing leader and someone this young team needed a lot.
‘He was a big factor in our Currie Cup win and was important in the final. He has a wealth of experience, so that made it a bit easier for me to sit on the bench. I just think at the end of the day, it is not about me or him, it is about what the team needs most.
‘Corné Fourie and I were the impact players at the Lions most of the time, and we always said that whether we get five or 50 minutes to play, we need to give our everything because there are millions of people out there who would give everything just to be in the squad, let alone play a match.
‘I don’t want to have any regrets. I just want to express myself and enjoy my rugby.’
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