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VIDEO: No 'pity party' for Angry Warthog

Armand Hendrik Petrus van der Merwe, affectionately know as Akker or the Angry Warthog, does not hold any resentment towards Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus for leaving him out of the national team alignment camp.

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When Erasmus named his first squad since resuming the role as national coach – in the wake of Jacques Nienaber’s departure – Van der Merwe was one of the more prominent names missing from the 43-man squad.

And while Erasmus has been at pains to state that this is by no means a definitive Bok list, it appears Van der Merwe and Stormers starter Joseph Dweba had dropped down the national pecking order.

Six hookers have been invited to the get-together in Cape Town next week, when the Springboks will get the wheels in motion for the 2024 season.

Johan Grobbelaar, Jan-Hendrik Wessels (both Bulls), Andre-Hugo Venter (Stormers), Marnus van der Merwe (Cheetahs), Bongi Mbonambi (Sharks) and Malcolm Marx (Japan) are the hookers in the alignment camp.

Van der Merwe played down his absence and made it clear there would be no ‘pity party’ by him.

(WATCH as seasoned hooker Akker van der Merwe talks to @king365ed about his omission from the Springbok alignment camp….)

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“I could easily just creep into a hole, feel sorry for myself and give up hope,” he said.

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“However, it just motivates you to work harder to get there [Springbok selection],” the three-times capped Bok added.

Even with Bulls teammates Grobbelaar and Wessels ahead of him, he opted for a positive take.

“It’s a good place for the Bulls to be in, having two hookers as part of the [12 Bulls players] in the alignment camp, and on top of that they are youngsters,” the 32-year-old said.

He said set pieces are the aspects of his game that most improved while playing in Europe from 2019 till last year, adding that he will continue to work hard at his game.

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“I just go and look at all my games and see where I can improve,” he told @rugby365com, adding: “Obviously there is something I need to work on.

“I won’t ever say that I’m a complete player or that I’ve mastered every single thing of my craft.

“There’s always room for improvement.

“It just drives me to be consistently better.”

Asked if there has been any feedback from Erasmus or the Bok management on specifics in his game he needs to work on, Van der Merwe bluntly replied: “No.”

Asked about his decision to return to South Africa, after four years with Sale Sharks in the Premiership and Europe, he said his ‘English airtime’ ran out.

“Family was the main reason,” he said, adding: “Our culture, our people was a driving force.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the rugby, but it was rugby only.

“I am big on family and it wasn’t enough that the grandparents saw the children only once or twice a year.”

Born in Vanderbijlpark, while being schooled at Hoƫrskool Outeniqua and attending the North-West University, he took his first steps in the Leopards junior and senior structures.

By 2014 he moved to Ellis Park, where he played 70-odd games before moving to Durban and featured in 40-odd times for the Sharks.

In 2019 he moved to England and made 70 appearances for Sale Sharks, before returning to South Africa and joining the Bulls last year.

All three of his Test appearances were in 2018 – his debut in the random money-making outing in Washington DC, before playing in two encounters against England.

@king365ed
@rugby365com

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