Springboks

Duane ‘hungry’ for June Bok duty

2018-04-24 12:46
Duane Vermeulen (Gallo)

Cape Town – Duane Vermeulen is ready to be a Springbok solution … or even, in a reasonably pleasant way, a problem.

The robust 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.

Speaking 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).”

Toulon are 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.

The French 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.

Vermeulen, 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 mix.

His presence 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.

The rangy 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.

If Whiteley 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.

But 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, too.

At some 118kg and 1.93m, “Thor” fits the bill perfectly for that berth and has plenty of prior experience on the side of the scrum.

There are 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.

Controversially, 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 …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  duane vermeulen  |  rugby
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