Bulls star Gerhard Steenekamp’s ‘tricks’ can rock Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong at Loftus

Bulls loosehead Gerhard Steenekamp powers through the tackle of Benetton tighthead Simone Ferrari, and will hope to do the same to Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong on Saturday. Photo: BackpagePix

Bulls loosehead Gerhard Steenekamp powers through the tackle of Benetton tighthead Simone Ferrari, and will hope to do the same to Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong on Saturday. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 13, 2024


MANY loosehead props may be worried about having to face up to Tadhg Furlong in a scrum, but that’s unlikely to be the case for Bulls No 1 Gerhard Steenekamp.

It’s not because the 27-year-old from Potchefstroom is a brash character – far from it, as he is one of the most chilled, unassuming members of the South African rugby community.

Rather, it’s due to having to scrum down against one of the best tightheads around, Wilco Louw, during training every day that would make Steenekamp well prepared for anything that Ireland Test star Furlong can throw at him in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship semi-final between the Bulls and Leinster at Loftus Versfeld (4pm kick-off).

“As soon as he joined the Bulls, me and Wilco clicked quite quickly, and actually became very good friends – living close to each other. We have a very good relationship, on and off the field. I trust him, and I believe he trusts me as well,” Steenekamp said about Louw this week.

“We just try to do what’s best for the team every scrum or set-piece we get involved in. Wilco has played a lot of rugby and is a little bit older than me – definitely a lot more experienced. I am still learning a lot from him in every scrum, and he helps me a lot, especially in pressure situations.

“He’s been through the ranks and played in many big games, and is definitely a cool head in the Bulls scrum.”

But Steenekamp and Louw weren’t always on the same side on a rugby pitch. “When I made my Super Rugby debut in 2019, we played against the Stormers at Newlands. We both came off the bench, as Frans (Malherbe) played his 100th Super Rugby game.

“I got my first cap and Wilco came off the bench, and we had an arm-wrestle! I don’t know (who would win an arm-wrestle battle)... We will probably give different answers, but let’s say it’s a draw. He will give me the upper hand now and then, but we call it a tie and then everyone’s happy!”

Grizzled veteran Furlong has 84 Test caps to his name (76 for Ireland, eight for the British and Irish Lions), and will be going all out to put Steenekamp under pressure in the scrums.

The Bulls No 1 has just a lone Springbok Test cap – against Argentina in Buenos Aires before last year’s World Cup – and is sure to be called up to the squad again once his URC duties are complete.

With doubts around Steven Kitshoff’s fitness due to a knee injury, Steenekamp could square off against Furlong again in the two-Test series in July, so Saturday’s clash is an ideal opportunity for the Bulls star to impress Bok coach Rassie Erasmus.

“For me, it’s not about proving a point, but to do the best for the Bulls – to play my best rugby to help us win the game this weekend. What happens after that is out of my hands,” he said.

“Leinster have a respected scrum, and we’ll see on the day – it’s eight against eight, so we’ll see what happens.

“He (Furlong) is a good prop. We’ve played against each other two or three times, and each tighthead comes with his own few tricks – just like a loosehead does! So, we must just hope our tricks are smarter than theirs this weekend.

“We missed a few tackles at crucial points of the game (against Benetton last week), so that’s one part we will definitely spend a lot of time on this week.

“We must just make sure that we play for the whole 80 minutes. Playing Leinster with all their internationals, those guys have played on the biggest stage.

“So, we must stay switched on for the whole game and not give them any soft moments for them to get easy points.

“You don’t be short of motivation if it’s a semi-final at Loftus, hopefully in front of a sold-out crowd.”