Gerhard van den Heever aims to build on his strong finish to 2012 and wear the green and gold in 2013.
Van den Heever started seven Super Rugby games for the Stormers last year, on the right wing, including three when Bryan Habana was used at inside centre and three when Joe Pietersen was out with a back injury. He came off the bench on another eight occasions and was an unused replacement twice.
With the Boks on Rugby Championship duty, Van den Heever was a regular starter for Western Province in the Currie Cup, and wore the No 14 jersey in the final against the Sharks after the Boks had returned (Gio Aplon played at fullback with Habana on the left wing and Pietersen on the bench).
Now Van den Heever wants to regain the form that saw him score eight tries in the 2010 Super 14, just one less than leading try-scorers Drew Mitchell and Joe Rokocoko.
‘When I joined the Stormers [at the beginning of 2012] I lacked confidence and was out of form,’ Van den Heever told keo.co.za. ‘I had lost focus at the Bulls and other things had become more important than being the best on the field. My priorities were wrong.
‘I just wanted to be in the Stormers squad for Super Rugby so I could have some influence on the team. I got a few starts on our overseas tour [against the Crusaders, Reds and Force], things went well, and I regained some of my confidence. Things then went really well for me in the Currie Cup and hopefully I can carry that form into 2013.
‘I’ve got my focus back,’ he added. ‘I want to start every game for the Stormers, I want to be the try-scorer I was for the Bulls in 2010, and I want to be selected for the Springbok squad in June. When I spoke with Heyneke [Meyer] at the Bok training camp last year he told me to work hard and said that there’s no reason why I can’t play for the Boks one day. If you’re the best they have to pick you.
‘I’ve had interest from French clubs but I want to give it a real crack with the Stormers. I’ve really enjoyed my time in Cape Town and I want to play for the Boks.’
Van den Heever credits Stormers coach Allister Coetzee and attack coach Robbie Fleck for reviving his career.
‘When I arrived in Cape Town they told me they believed in me, and that I must just go out and be myself. From a team perspective, they gave us structures and maps but also allowed us to be instinctive and creative on the field.’
The Stormers began their pre-season training on Monday, and Van den Heever says they are doing things a bit differently this time around.
‘Last year we did a lot of long-distance running and didn’t rest much. This year, we’ve focused more on direction changes, shuttles and intervals, because the stats from the 2012 Super Rugby tournament show that teams only managed to retain possession for longer than four minutes on four occasions, and three of those were by the Stormers. So we’re doing short drills, which require short bursts of energy, in our pre-season training to simulate what happens in matches.
‘From a personal point of view, I’ve been working hard on my kicking [out of hand]. A lot of people don’t know I can kick, but I’ve played fullback for the Bulls before, and for the Stormers in warm-up games, and I’d like to become more of a utility back. At the moment, though, I think my best position is wing.’
By Simon Borchardt