Cape Town – Willie Engelbrecht likes to get “personal” with every carry, tackle and clean-out he makes on a rugby field.
You can see it in the Stormers loose forward’s play every weekend, but Friday’s United Rugby Championship URC) clash against the Bulls at Cape Town Stadium (7.30pm kick-off) is even more personal for him.
Engelbrecht hails from Pretoria, attending Hoërskool Die Wilgers, which is about 11km away from Loftus Versfeld.
He was also at the University of Pretoria, but never played provincial rugby for the Bulls at any level. He represented the Valke and Limpopo Blue Bulls in his youth, and then Limpopo as a senior before making his name at the Pumas, whom he led to the last Currie Cup title.
Now he has joined the Stormers on a fulltime basis after being on loan last year and is determined to make his contribution to the cause.
Engelbrecht made an outstanding return to the side in last week’s 34-14 Champions Cup victory over London Irish.
He was a physical force at close quarters with his powerful runs and big hits in defence,
and he also scored the opening try with a typically robust surge on a perfect line off Steven Kitshoff’s well-timed pop pass.
“It was something amazing, scoring my first Stormers try. You always see it happening to other players, and then everyone from all around celebrate, and be happy with you – it was just amazing,” the 30-year-old said.
“I take every game personally, so defence is always personal for me as well. If you run in front of me, the only thing I think about is taking you backwards.
“The Bulls-Stormers has always been a big game over the years. Like I said, I take every game personally. Taking nothing away from the Bulls, they are a good team, but if we go onto the field, it must always be personal, otherwise rugby doesn’t mean so much to you.”
Friday’s clash is shaping up as an intriguing one between the respective loose trios, with the likes of Springboks Marco van Staden, Elrigh Louw and Nizaam Carr providing a well-balanced combination for Jake White’s visiting team.
The Stormers are hoping to have star No 8 Evan Roos back for Friday’s game following a rib injury, while Hacjivah Dayimani and Deon Fourie have been in excellent form too.
“Our loose forwards are excellent players, and everyone has their own X-factor. The way Hacjivah is playing at the moment and Deon is inspiring everyone, it’s amazing to just play with them. In every game, I am just trying to back myself and keep up with them,” Engelbrecht said.
“To play is important. It is not about certain guys being injured, and now it’s my chance. If I get my chance, I must use it and make every game personal for myself. I play to make myself better, not to prove other people wrong.
“We started well (against London Irish), and it fell away here and there. There isn’t a big reason for it – it’s just that when we get back to our structures and set-pieces, we get back to how we usually play, and everything went our way.”