With Stellenbosch FC having drawn Orlando Pirates for a Telkom Knockout first round clash on 19 October, Marc van Heerden is gearing up for a double-header against his former club. The 31-year-old has admitted that during his time at the Buccaneers, he felt he deserved more playing time.
Football alone was not behind his departure, however. The left-back joined Orlando Pirates from Chippa United midway through the 2016-17 season. Although this was a return to his childhood city, van Heerden found that Johannesburg was no longer home.
“It’s not a place that I consider to be [ideal for] living, especially having two small kids. Because I was so spoiled for choice in Durban [at AmaZulu] in terms of the lifestyle that Durban gave me, I didn’t enjoy my time in Jo’burg at all,” van Heerden told Extra Time Media.
“Yes, I was playing for Pirates. I was a professional; I went to work day-in-day-out, but I’m a very naturistic kind of person and it wasn’t the ideal place to bring up my family.”
Orlando Pirates allowed van Heerden to leave after the 2017-18 season. He rejoined AmaZulu, but his second stint at Usuthu lasted only a solitary campaign before he joined Stellenbosch. Even though he is new to the Western Cape, he has taken to unfamiliar surroundings like a duck to water this time.
“For a long time, my wife and I have wanted to relocate to the Cape. It’s always been in the plans to move here. It took longer than what we wanted, but it also came at the right time. I’m a firm believer that things happen at the right time,” he says.
While he has always maintained that he was grateful for the chance to sign for Pirates, Van Heerden believes he deserved a better shot at proving himself.
“It wasn’t that I wasn’t working hard enough. I was working hard enough. I just don’t think I was given the opportunity I felt I deserved.”Marc van Heerden on his time at Orlando Pirates
Certainly, this is true of Stellenbosch’s upcoming Telkom Knockout clash with the Buccaneers, as well as the league encounter on 26 October.
Stellies are riding high after claiming their first win of the season against Polokwane City while Pirates are in dismal form with one victory in their last nine matches across all competitions.
Looking back on the football aspect of his time at Orlando Pirates, van Heerden claims: “It wasn’t that I wasn’t working hard enough. I was working hard enough. I just don’t think I was given the opportunity I felt I deserved.
“At that stage of my career — 27, 28, 29 [years old], you’ve got to be playing.”
If van Heerden was out for vengeance, now would be the ideal time, but he insists he has nothing to prove to his erstwhile employers.
“No, not at all. As a sportsperson, every game you play, you have a point to prove — not a point to prove to anyone else, but to yourself — that you’re in this chosen career for a specific reason,” van Heerden says when asked.
“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to motivate yourself and prove to yourself that you can be the best.”
Van Heerden played nine competitive games for Pirates, a total he is only one shy of in Stellenbosch colours.
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Leonard Solms is a freelance South African multi-sport journalist who has written for a number of regional, national and international newspapers and websites. He won a Rhodes-Investec Top 100 Award in 2018, the year in which he completed his Bachelor of Journalism at Rhodes University.