Cape Town –
Duane Vermeulen is ready to be a Springbok solution … or even, in a reasonably
pleasant way, a problem.
No 8, now in the closing weeks of his three-year tenure with French Top 14
outfit Toulon, confirmed on Monday that he would answer the call if sought by
new Bok coach Rassie Erasmus for the June internationals.
from Europe to Kobus Wiese, 1995 World Cup-winning lock and anchor of the
SuperRugby Afrikaans chat show on SuperSport, Vermeulen said: “I am
unbelievably hungry to pull on that green and gold jersey.
“I am 100
percent (fit), the body feels good … I want to be part of plans. If they press
the button I will (be there).”
currently fourth in the Top 14 with two round-robin fixtures left ahead of the
knockout phase of the competition, which features the best six finishers, and
are not quite yet guaranteed of an onward passage.
final is scheduled for June 2, which is also when the Boks play the
recently-scheduled “extra” Test against Wales in Washington DC, immediately
preceding the bigger task which is a three-match home series against Eddie
Jones’s England tourists.
So at very
worst, it seems the loose-forward strongman would definitely be free for
possible selection against the English.
31, has played 39 Tests for South Africa - though only two each in 2016 and
2017 - and the Boks win almost three-quarters of the time when he is in the
may well be especially appreciated if the Boks enter the June assignments still
without the services of incumbent, first-choice captain (at least during the
closing phase of the Allister Coetzee tenure as coach) Warren Whiteley.
Lions skipper, a different beast in playing style but very effective in his own
way, is in a race against time to recover from a knee injury that has
side-lined him since March.
beats the clock, and is also Erasmus’s pick as ongoing leader, he will almost
certainly need to be fielded as eighth-man, as he is not ideally suited to
open-side “stealer” duty and also not the sort of blind-side barnstormer
physically that the Boks traditionally like to field.
Vermeulen would be wonderful back-up, if it is felt there is value in nursing
him gradually back toward the demands of Test activity after his years in the
slower, more grinding landscape of French rugby … or a very real shout as No 7,
118kg and 1.93m, “Thor” fits the bill perfectly for that berth and has plenty
of prior experience on the side of the scrum.
compelling rivals in that slot, also, given the form recently of men like lock-cum-flanks
Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers) and Franco Mostert (Lions), as well as the
Sharks’ no-nonsense Jean-Luc du Preez.
But if he
does, indeed, edge closer to the general SA rugby landscape again in the next
few months, Vermeulen, his class and “mongrel” hardly in dispute, should become
an increasingly attractive candidate for inclusion - as a versatile loosie and
perhaps even yet as skipper - in the Boks’ World Cup 2019 plans in Japan.
Vermeulen only made his Bok debut after the 2011 World Cup, in the next
calendar year, despite his rousing domestic displays for the Cheetahs and then
Stormers in the years leading up to that tournament.
So he has
only sampled one World Cup - 2015 in England, when the Boks were semi-finalists - and must be eager for another crack at the Webb Ellis Cup next year …
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