Junior Springbok lock Emile van Heerden says he hopes to emulate his father Fritz and play for the Springboks in the future.
The 2m tall and 100kg Van Heerden made his SA U20 debut in April, having matriculated at Paarl Boys’ High last year.
Van Heerden’s father, Fritz, also a lock, played 14 Tests for the Springboks between 1994 and 1999 and was a member of the ’99 World Cup squad.
‘It is a big honour and a privilege to be in the Junior Springbok team and to have this opportunity to represent my country,’ Van Heerden said. ‘It was my dream to follow in my father’s footsteps since I was a young boy, and I feel like playing for the SA U20’s is a step in that direction.
‘He told me to enjoy the experience, to keep calm and to do what I have to do on the field. My father never pushed my brother and I in a specific sporting direction when we were young, instead he allowed us to do whatever we wanted to, so I played tennis, cricket, rugby and I cycled as a youngster. But I always loved rugby, and I saw photos of him playing, so I decided to pursue the sport.
‘I remember staying behind at the rugby field with my father and brother after school and practicing kick-offs, catching high balls and sometimes playing touch rugby. The nice thing about the fact that my dad also played lock, is that he can give objective insights into my performance after each match. He also gives me tips about the lineouts from back when he played and also in the modern game.’
The Junior Springboks kick off their World Rugby U20 Championship campaign on Tuesday against Scotland at the Racecourse Stadium in Rosario.
Van Heerden shared his captain Phendulani Buthelezi’s sentiments that he couldn’t wait to run on to the field.
‘I am very excited to play. There are some butterflies, but we have been very training hard, and we are keen to get out on to the field. I got goosebumps the first time I pulled the Junior Springbok jersey over my head and looked down and saw the emblem, and I still get that feeling in each match, so I am really looking forward to what lies ahead in Argentina.’
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images