DHL WP and Springbok lock Andries Bekker will become the first DHL Stormers player to reach the 100-game milestone for the Cape franchise when he takes to the field in this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby derby match against the Cheetahs.
Star winger Bryan Habana reached the 100-game mark last year – with his Bulls and Stormers caps added together – whilst AJ Venter (Cats and Sharks) was a Super Rugby centurion before playing for the Stormers.
Bekker, however, will become the first official Stormers centurion come kick-off in Bloemfontein on Saturday (17h05), and he admits: “It is quite special. I really never thought I’d become the first DHL Stormers player to reach the landmark.”
Bekker’s DHL Stormers career began back in 2005 and he has a vague recollection of those early days of Super Rugby, saying: “My first game was against the Highlanders in Invercargill… I was so nervous, I can barely remember what I was thinking then – but I can tell you that playing 100 games for the Stormers was the last thing on my mind back then!
“For me, playing for Western Province, the Stormers… the Springboks – it’s a massive honour and a privilege but you have the same feeling each every time you run out; you just want to play your best and give your best and pay back everyone that has supported you – no matter who you’re playing for. But, that said, the DHL Stormers are very, very close to my heart and DHL Newlands is such a great place to play your rugby too.”
There have been highs and lows for Bekker and the Stormers since his debut, but the 2,08m giant would not trade his experiences in Cape Town for anything.
Speaking about some of those highs and lows, he reveals: “As lows go… Well, I’m not a good loser and I normally sulk for a few days after a loss – I’m like my dad in that way. So, any loss is a low for me. But, yes, there was that big loss to the Bulls in Pretoria back in my first season – that hurt a lot and we got grilled by Nick Mallett in the changeroom afterwards. That was a real eye-opener for a lot of us players, but the key from any bad experience is to learn from it.
“For me, the 2010 season was a real highlight,” adds the star Stormers forward, “I think we played some good rugby and made a lot of friends along the way. It’s my standout (memory) amongst many, many good memories I’ve had at the Stormers over the last nine seasons.”
But, as we know, the 2013 season will be Bekker’s last in a Stormers jersey, with the 29-cap Bok having signed a deal to further his career in Japan at the end of the current Super Rugby season.
He says: “I’ve played all my rugby here – from my days as a schoolboy until now – so it was quite a tough decision to make (the move to Japan).
“I am really excited about the new experience and a new lifestyle that awaits my wife (Elaine) and I, but right now all I am focused on is playing well for the Stormers and helping the team win a trophy. It’s my last chance, so I’d love to say goodbye to Cape Town as a Super Rugby winner.”
Before that can happen, however, there is the not so small matter of facing the Cheetahs away this weekend – in Bekker’s 100th game – and, then, hosting the Sharks at home before the side travels to Australasia for a tough four-week tour.
“It’s all about this weekend and the challenge of facing the Cheetahs,” says Bekker, when asked about his team’s tough schedule in the coming weeks.
“The Cheetahs are never an easy side in Bloemfontein and they’re one of the form sides in Super Rugby at present. At the same time, we have a few things we need to rectify from last weekend (against the Crusaders), so we need to concentrate on our own game and get our own execution right.”
Of course, whilst it would be fitting for Bekker to finish on the winning side in his 100th Stormers match – his only worry is registering a victory for the sake of the DHL Stormers.
“I lost my 50th match for the Stormers (against the Brumbies),” remembers Bekker, “losing my 100th is not something I’d want to repeat, but it’s all about the team winning on Saturday – it’s not about me.
“I don’t want a fuss made about this being my 100th game for the Stormers – those people close to me will know what this means to me. Like I said, it’s a special feeling (being my 100th game), but I want a win for the team’s sake – not mine.”
ANDRIES BEKKER FACTFILE:
Height: 2.08m; weight 120kg
Born: 05/12/83, Goodwood
Province: Western Province
Provincial caps: 38
Provincial points: 60 (12t)
Provincial debut: 2004 v Boland
Super Rugby caps: 99
Super Rugby points: 65 (13t)
Super Rugby debut: 2005 v Highlanders
Test Caps: 29
Test Points: 5 (1t)
Test Debut: 2008 v Wales
SOUTH AFRICAN SUPER RUGBY CENTURIONS:
125: AJ Venter (Cats 19, Sharks 96, Stormers 10) and John Smit (Sharks)
124: Victor Matfield (Cats 8, Bulls 116)
122: Stefan Terblanché (Sharks)
116: Danie Rossouw (Bulls)
113: Pedrie Wannenburg (Bulls) and Adi Jacobs (Bulls 21, Cats 4, Sharks 87)
112: Fourie du Preez and Morné Steyn (both Bulls)
110: Jacques Botes (Sharks)
109: Bryan Habana (Bulls 61, Stormers 48)
108: Ollie le Roux (Natal 24, Sharks 60, Cats 5, Cheetahs 21)
107: Wynand Olivier (Bulls)
103: Jannie du Plessis (Cheetahs 26, Sharks 77)
102: Albert van den Berg (Cats 7, Sharks 95)
100: Bakkies Botha (Bulls)