Regular No 8 Duane Vermeulen looks set to move to the side of the scrum when he runs out for the Springboks in next month’s series against France.
This comes after Springbok coach Allister Coetzee announced on Tuesday that Warren Whiteley will be his captain for the three-Test home series.
Vermeulen, who plies his trade as skipper of Toulon in France, was included in the squad and while he would have crossed Coetzee’s mind as a possible leader of the team, the coach played it safe by opting for the locally-based Whiteley.
So with Whiteley the captain and expected to be starting in his regular position of No 8, where does that leave Vermeulen, who was regarded as the world’s best eighthman in the not too distant past?
Vermeulen has started at No 8 in all 37 of his Tests and I doubt whether Coetzee had the intention of calling him back from France to sit on the bench.
After announcing his squad, Coetzee said he would be playing Vermeulen at blindside flank.
“Duane plays like a No 7 flank. He is a strong defender, a good ball carrier and can play to the ground,” Coetzee said.
However, it’s natural to question whether Vermeulen would be comfortable playing in a position in which he’s not started a Test before.
But with Whiteley at the back providing a solid link between forwards and backs, Vermeulen would still be tasked with making hits, taking the ball up and calling the shots at lineout time.
Vermeulen is also good on the ground, so in essence will not be doing anything different than he had while wearing No 8 on his back.
What could prove troublesome though, is the role of the openside flank.
Jaco Kriel and Siya Kolisi are the options there and for that reason the lack of a genuine fetcher in the squad could come back to bite the Boks.
Kriel isn’t an out-and-out opensider - he’s also at his deadliest going forward with ball in hand - and given this likely loose trio make-up, the Boks may be left exposed on the ground.
For that reason, I believe a player like the Southern Kings' Chris Cloete would have been an ideal addition to the Bok squad.
“Fetching” has also never been Kolisi’s main attribute and the Stormers have been found wanting in that regard this season.
At present, it seems a given that Whiteley and Vermeulen will start at Nos 8 and 7 in the first Test at Loftus Versfeld and it will therefore be of utmost importance for whoever is selected in the six jumper, to clearly understand his role on match-day.
If Kriel plays alongside Vermeulen and Whiteley in the loose-trio, then enough emphasis would need to be placed with regards to winning possession at ruck time...
Herman Mostert works at Sport24, is a struggling golfer and enjoys tennis...
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