Veteran eighth-man juggernaut Duane Vermeulen will remain a valued figure for the Springboks in the British and Irish Lions series on our shores in 2021.
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That is the belief of internationally retired fellow-Bok loose forward Francois Louw, who has had long rugby associations with him.
Vermeulen, Louw (then at blindside flank) and Schalk Burger made up the Stormers loose trio back in 2010, when the franchise made their only appearance in a Super Rugby final, losing 25-17 to domestic rivals the Bulls at Orlando Stadium.
Louw joined Bath in 2011, and revealed to Sport24 earlier on Friday that he would be quitting all rugby at the end of the current English Premiership season in either May or June, depending on the club’s knockout-phase participation or not.
But he resumed alliance with Vermeulen at Test level over the course of his 76-cap Test career, culminating in the 2019 World Cup triumph in Japan, where the big No 8 began the final against England – he was hugely influential – and Louw was a pivotal element of the Boks’ renowned “Bomb Squad” impact players off the bench.
Versatile Louw, soon to turn 35 and keen to takes steps into the business/finance world in the UK, fully backs a scenario of Vermeulen, who is also no spring chicken at 33, staying at his Bok post for the keenly-awaited, three-Test Lions tour next year.
“When last I spoke to him that was 100 percent his plan … it would be a really cool thing for him to do,” said Louw.
The robust “Thor” missed out on the last Lions safari to these shores in 2009, as he only made his Bok debut around three years later – some time after many pundits would have preferred.
“He is still hungry, and the body is holding out … I think he has done quite a smart thing physically by spending time on the Japanese scene, where the demands are perhaps not as (brutal).
“You mustn’t overplay a guy like him: what you ideally want is for him to be sharp and fresh for maximum effect as a destroyer in keynote Springbok matches.”
In terms of younger No 8s on the scene, Louw said he had noted the resurgence of Sikhumbuzo Notshe since his switch from the Stormers to the Sharks this season.
“I’m sure he’ll be getting another (Bok) look-in … he’s been on the cusp of things.
“Notshe is 26, and although some guys are lucky enough to debut at 20, my own Bok debut had come at 25, round about the same age as his (in 2018) … rugby’s a funny thing in that way.”
Renowned for his ability to occupy all three loose forward berths comfortably toward the back end of his career, Louw said he would probably opt for the No 6 jersey – the fetcher-type role in SA terms - if picked for some sort of dream team.
“I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed that job and let’s face it, lots of standout Bok captains have worn that jersey number.”
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