By: Quintin van Jaarsveld
The utility back has carried his impressive Super Rugby form for the Stormers into the Currie Cup and has been one of the standout wings of the competition due to his potent mix of pace and power.
He’s taken on more responsibility as a season player in a young and inexperienced Western Province side this season and has flourished in his new role; consistently producing performances of the highest order.
He’s set to join Irish club Munster at the end of the season and with the competition nearing its climax, Van den Heever’s time in Cape Town is drawing to a close.
He’ll start in the No.14 jersey in the crunch final round clash against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday, and will make his Western Province swansong either next weekend or a week later, should the Cape side reach the Final.
Van den Heever, ahead of the weekend’s top-of-the-table fixture, said he’s determined to help Western Province retain their Currie Cup crown and end his stint on the ultimate high.
“It would be the ultimate present to finish off by winning the Currie Cup, but at this stage all our focus is on the next game and making sure we do everything we can to get the win on Saturday,” he said.
The man who inherited Bryan Habana’s No.11 jersey at the Bulls and who won a Super Rugby title and his first Currie Cup winner’s medal with the Pretoria-based side feels he developed exponentially as a player at Western Province and admits it’ll be difficult to leave his live in Cape Town behind.
“I made a lot of friends here in the Cape and learned a great deal. A learned the true importance of team work, playing as a unit, and grew in confidence during my time at Western Province. I’m going to miss the friends I made here but I’ll remember and take everything I learned with me.”
At 24, Van den Heever could follow in the footsteps of former Cheetahs hooker Richardt Strauss and go on to represent Ireland at Test level, but he insists he hasn’t entertained that possibility.
“At this stage, my goal is just to go abroad and make the most of the opportunity,” he said.
Van den Heever feels Western Province, after securing their first bonus-point win of the season against the Golden Lions last weekend, are peaking at the right time in terms of their offence and said while he’s satisfied with his own attacking game, he felt he could still improve his defence.
“Getting the bonus point was all our hard work paying off. Our execution hadn’t been great, we knocked on at crucial times, but at the weekend we kept it simple and everyone focused on their individual roles.
“From a team perspective, we’re happy that we were able to get the bonus point last weekend and personally and I’m pleased with my ball carries. I’ve tried to get more involved and carry the ball more,” he said, adding, “I think I can sharpen up my defence a bit – there’s always room for improvement. My main goal is to improve with every game I play.”
He said the return of the Springboks from international duty this weekend will bring out the best in all the players.
“The intensity will lift to new heights this weekend with the Springboks back. They just bring such a presence and experience with them.
“Having someone like Jean [de Villiers] on the bench keeps you on your toes because you know if you have a bad game, he’s going to come on and you might not play next weekend, so it motivates you to be at your best.”
He said the Western Province back three know they’ll have their work cut out for them against the tactically astute Sharks.
“It’s going to be a challenge to deal with their kicking game but we in the back three always enjoy getting more ball as it gives us more opportunities to run and try to create something. It’s going to be clinical and physical. Execution will be key for both teams and the back three who make the least amount of mistakes will be the most dangerous.
“We have an exciting back three with Gio [Aplon] having a wealth of experience and Cheslin [Kolbe] having just started his senior career. He’s an exciting and unpredictable player and I’m looking forward to the weekend to see how we operate in a high stakes situation.”
He praised the diminutive Kolbe, who’s likely to inherit his Stormers jersey next season, and said the 19-year-old has a bright future ahead of him.
“He makes a big impact on the game, especially for player of his size. I take my hat off to him for being able to play so well at such a high level at such a young age.”
He added that he’s relishing his head-to-head battle with old rival Lwazi Mvovo.
“Lwazi and I have crossed paths on a number of occasions and it’s always a tough challenge. You have to be alert because you never know what he’s going to do,”