Cape Town – It is going to be mightily interesting to see
whether Duane Vermeulen, the loose forward easing his way back to full fitness
after long-term injury, continues his match-play rehabilitation in blue and
white hoops, or green and gold.
Following the near-disastrous 16-16 outcome for the
Springboks in Argentina, with breakdown woes pretty central to shortcomings, the
make-up of coach Heyneke Meyer’s loose-forward resources has come under fresh
You have to feel some sympathy for him, however, as a host
of injuries – or in some cases unavailability – badly hinder any remedial quest
if, indeed, that is what he is genuinely tempted to do now.
Poorly served in Mendoza by an unsubtle, tonnage-obsessed
combo of Marcell Coetzee, Jacques Potgieter and Willem Alberts, the Boks
clearly need to rebalance their strategy in that area.
But will that simply mean a possible recall to the starting
frame for whippet Keegan Daniel, when South Africa next go into Castle Rugby
Championship action against similarly wobbling Australia in Perth on September
Meyer was clearly relatively lukewarm about the Sharks man’s
debut at No 8 in the prior game against the Pumas at Newlands – suddenly that
fairly sterile 27-6 victory looks more like a million dollars – because he
promptly relegated him back to the bench for the away leg in what he explained
was a horses-for-courses move.
But with that step misfiring even more acutely, a reshuffle
is on the cards once more.
The loose forward department traditionally sports an
embarrassment of riches for South Africa, but suddenly viable options from
outside the current Bok party have narrowed dramatically in recent weeks and
Not presently available to bolster things for the Boks are
all of Schalk Burger, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies, Ryan Kankowski, Heinrich
Brussow ... and just the latest casualty is Siya Kolisi, out for the remainder
of the Currie Cup season after being part of the broader Bok training group
only a fortnight back.
This brings the delicate matter of Vermeulen into focus.
It is believed that, early in his tenure, Meyer had
earmarked the big Stormers unit as a very strong contender for a place in his
side; he can operate either at No 8 or blindside flank.
But then Vermeulen badly damaged a knee and spent many weeks
He has just completed a second, curtailed comeback
appearance for Western Province in the Currie Cup, lasting 64 mostly productive
minutes against the Lions at Coca-Cola Park.
You could hardly blame WP coach Allister Coetzee, who was more
jinxed for loose forward absenteeism than any other coach in Super Rugby this
year, for pleading, post-match, that Vermeulen’s recuperation continue at
domestic level for the time being, rather than the hurly-burly of Test combat.
But a rival school of thought, given the present Bok
conundrum, might well be more inclined to cry: “Your country needs you.”
There must be at least a chance that the national side,
then, will make a rapid claim on Vermeulen’s services – if not necessarily for
Perth, then for the Dunedin Test against the world champion All Blacks a week
later, or the respective home legs to follow.
Certainly if the Nelspruit-born customer (still uncapped for
South Africa, remember) stands out on Saturday, in the important Currie Cup
match against the in-form Blue Bulls at Newlands (19:10 kickoff) any moves to
pluck him away for “national service” may only intensify.
Meanwhile, after initial hopes that specialist open-sider
Brussow, who has debatably not been part of Meyer’s early Bok plans anyway,
would belatedly start his Currie Cup campaign with a half for the Cheetahs
against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday (17:05 start), it seems it could be at
least another fortnight before he returns after a knee problem.
If Meyer does desire some fresh options at loose forward, he
could do worse than reconsider the claims of experienced, overseas-based
players like Joe van Niekerk (Toulon) or Francois Louw (Bath), although such a
move is unlikely.
strong but mobile CJ Stander of the Bulls has made another forceful start to a
Currie Cup season after excelling in that environment in 2011 too, but he is
Ireland-bound at the end of the campaign which may be regarded as a
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