Franco: #ULSvLIO Is Going To Be A Cracker - Lions rugby

Franco: #ULSvLIO Is Going To Be A Cracker

Team News

13th Oct 2021

We caught up with former Springbok, Lions and Ulster forward, Franco van der Merwe on all things life, the Vodacom United Rugby Championship (VURC) and his thoughts on the Ulster vs Emirates Lions in Belfast for round four of the tournament.

I tell you what, it’s going to be a cracker!

We caught up with former Springbok, Lions and Ulster forward, Franco van der Merwe on all things life, the Vodacom United Rugby Championship (VURC) and his thoughts on the Ulster vs Emirates Lions in Belfast for round four of the tournament.

On what he has been up to lately.

Lots has changed since 2020. When the pandemic started, I played my last club game for London Irish.

I moved back home to a small town in Hartswater where I grew up. I managed to buy some land and started farming which is quite interesting; I enjoy the lifestyle.

I am involved with a school here called Futurum Academy as their Sports Organiser, as well as at a company called Die MOS Inisiatief, which I thoroughly enjoy.

On the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.

It’s an exciting tournament. I think it is brilliant that South African teams are experiencing something new. Super Rugby was immense, and it was unbelievable being part of that for many years, but I think this is a new era for South African rugby, especially when it comes to exposure and experiencing different styles of play which teams in Europe bring. Of course, there are factors such as weather and different surfaces which newer teams need to navigate.

I was privileged to play in the Pro12 a few years ago and that for me was an eye-opener in terms of how different the game was. Fixtures would be cancelled due to frozen pitches, something unheard of in South Africa!

On the performances of South African teams in the VURC.

Having watched a few of the games in the VURC so far, it’s definitely going to take time for our teams to adjust and find their feet. Already we are seeing close encounters between SA teams against well-established opponents in the competition.

The style of rugby played in the VURC is also something we as South African teams would need to approach differently. Northern Hemisphere sides enjoy attacking the breakdown area quite hard and their defensive structures are quite well organised. I’m confident however that we will adapt, and the results will start coming our way. When those teams visit our shores, it will require similar adjustments on their part.

What Emirates Lions can expect from Ulster.

I tell you what, it’s going to be a cracker! The Lions can expect a huge contribution from the crowd because once they start chanting for their home team, it becomes quite a challenge for the visitors. Expect a packed stadium, plenty of energy, and lots of singing.

It’s fair to say that the way Ulster have been playing for the last couple of seasons, they have shown significant growth and have established themselves as a top European side.

But in saying that, the Emirates Lions, with a new coaching staff, have brought about some new ideas and I believe they have the players to execute the playing philosophy. It’s going to be a very good game.

From a weather standpoint, you never know in Belfast; one can experience all four seasons in one day!

Prediction: Ulster vs Emirates Lions

A draw would be good! I want both sides to play well but I think the team who adapts the quickest to the weather conditions and settles down fairly early in the game will clinch it.

  • Franco van der Merwe spent three years at Ulster and most recently London Irish for the same time period. Van der Merwe represented the Lions in both Currie Cup and Super Rugby amassing over 100 caps in all formats.

 

 

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