JP Pietersen (AP)
Newcastle – The manner in which rusty senior players Duane Vermeulen and JP Pietersen bit the bullet to have full games against Samoa last weekend exemplifies the spirit in the Springbok RWC 2015 squad, says coach Heyneke Meyer.
Both had experienced lengthy layoffs and in Birmingham were “thrown in the deep end” as Meyer put it after plans to ease them back into battle gradually were scuppered by the unexpected loss to Japan in the first Pool B game.
“Lots of senior players who ran out against Samoa hadn’t played much (going into it) ... and then we got three tries out of JP.
“In Duane’s case, many people would have said ‘are you crazy?’ to play him considering he’d had no Rugby Championship games and was injured back in Super Rugby ... suddenly he came through 80 minutes when I’d really asked him (beforehand) for 45 or 50.”
Pietersen had earned a short 10-minute stint off the bench late on against the Japanese a week earlier, but Vermeulen went in completely “cold” in the impressive Bok follow-up against the Pacific Islanders.
“Duane really makes a big difference,” Meyer said of the strapping No 8. “He has always been in charge of the defence, as well as the lineouts with Victor (Matfield) ... he just brought something different last week.”
Apart from the still undercooked Pietersen and Vermeulen, the Boks have several other players mildly impeded by niggles as they prepare to face Scotland here on Saturday (17:45 SA time).
“We had an unbelievably physical game against Samoa, but I know the guys (carrying knocks) are warriors; we will just dig deep.”
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing. Rob is attending the pool phase of RWC 2015 to provide news and analysis for Sport24 readers.