“Our understanding is coming along nicely,” outside centre Marco Jansen van Vuren says of his midfield partnership with Cornal Hendricks, which has been one of the most unlikely success stories for the Bulls as they dominate local rugby.
It no doubt gives coach Jake White immense delight that he has moved a wing and a scrumhalf into midfield and made them a centre pairing that has proven to be one of the strengths of the Bulls on their way to winning the Currie Cup and now standing poised to reach the Rainbow Cup final.
The 24-year-old Jansen van Vuren had previously shuttled between the Lions, Valke and Bulls, battling to get decent game time as a scrumhalf. Coaches acknowledged that he was a talented footballer, but they just couldn’t find a regular slot for him. His Bulls appearances were initially on the wing, until White had the bright idea to shift him closer to the action when Springbok Sevens star Stedman Gans was injured.
Jansen van Vuren and Hendricks have certainly hit it off.
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“Cornal has been really good at No 12 and as a centre pairing you have to understand each other. It was a challenge for me at first and then when Stedman was injured just before the Currie Cup semi-final I had to adapt as quickly as possible,” Jansen van Vuren said.
“The most important thing is understanding, knowing when and where to support each other. But it’s lekker to be next to Cornal, he’s a Springbok, one of the leaders.
“And he’s a good person – he even listens to me when I tell him he’s not doing the right thing! But it’s been quite a challenge for me to play in that channel, although now, playing a few games in a row for the first time, I feel like I’m finding my feet and getting that confidence there. I’m playing 80 minutes a game too so I’m settling in.”
On Saturday in the decisive Rainbow Cup match against the Sharks in Durban, Jansen van Vuren will come up against Lukhanyo Am, one of the coolest cats wearing the No 13 jersey anywhere in the world.
“Lukhanyo is a great player, he won the World Cup, he’s one of the best in the world,” the 1.88m, 90kg Jansen van Vuren said.
“It’s a lovely challenge, I’ve played against him a couple of times and he’s always up for it. But with the defensive system we have, we all trust each other and that makes it easier, especially when the wings and Cornal are doing very well.
“As a scrumhalf you are mostly just behind the defensive line and covering, you don’t spend much time in the frontline. But as an outside centre you have to make more decisions; is the ball going front door or back door?
“You need to make good decisions. But now I think it would be a big challenge for me to shift back to scrumhalf!”