Johannesburg - Lions hooker Akker van der Merwe says the opportunity of being part of the famous Barbarians squad lived up to its high expectations.
Van der Merwe was one of several South African-born players in the Barbarians group for the club’s November fixtures. Others included lock Martin Muller, loose forward Ruan Ackermann, scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, flyhalf Robert du Preez and fullback Clayton Blommetjies, while Hurricanes prop Reg Goodes was raised in Witbank before moving to New Zealand as a teenager.
The Barbarians enjoyed successful results on tour this year, picking up a respectable 31-31 draw against a young Springbok outfit in London and beating Fiji (40-7) and the Czech Republic (71-0).
Van der Merwe described the experience on and off the field as “special”.
“It was a massive honour to receive an invitation from such a famous club. I think every player around the world dreams of representing the Barbarians at some point of their career,” Van der Merwe told MyPlayers.
“We had a great time on and off the field. We were very happy with the results, while it was great experiencing different cultures in the various cities we got to visit.”
The 25-year-old highlighted the match against the Springboks as a standout memory.
“Playing against my home nation and friends made the Barbarians experience even more special. It was a great inspiration to play against the Boks,” said Van der Merwe.
“The South African boys in the Barbarians team joined in on the singing of the national anthem before the game too.”
With a mix of internationals in the Barbarians squad, Van der Merwe said he made new rugby friends, especially among the Hurricanes players.
“The tour with all the lads was great, especially after our new friendships with the Kiwis and Aussies,” said Van der Merwe.
“I can’t go into too much detail because what happens on tour, stays on tour! But it was great exploring the tourist hotspots with the guys. The Barbarians management did very well to plan our trips so the players could make the most of the opportunity of visiting Europe. This year’s Barbarians squad will be remembered as a special group by everyone involved.”
Looking ahead to 2017, Van der Merwe will resume life at the Lions as the Johannesburg-based team prepares for next season’s Super Rugby campaign. The front-rower said he hopes he can add value to the team’s ambitions and enjoy his game.
“I just want to enjoy my rugby and not put too much pressure on myself,” explained van der Merwe.
“This Barbarians experience helped me realise that rugby is to be enjoyed and embraced. I’m very lucky to be playing a game that I love for a career. I’m looking forward to an exciting season next year.”
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