Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, departing Toulouse
scrumhalf JANO VERMAAK discusses his
move to Cape Town, his Rugby World Cup dream and the Stormers' chances heading into
Sport24 asked: You have penned a two-and-a-half
year contract with Western Province Rugby effective from July 1. What excites
you about this new chapter in your career?
Jano Vermaak: I’ve enjoyed two memorable
seasons at Toulouse, but I can’t wait to return to South Africa and continue my
playing career in Cape Town. Newlands has always been one of my favourite
grounds to play at owing to the awesome atmosphere and support. I like the
style of play the side employs and must say it’s quite similar to our game
strategy at Toulouse. Both teams favour a running game, but if they can’t make
metres on attack, they tend to implement a kicking game. The Stormers may be
regarded as a defence-orientated side, but I’ve watched a few of their matches
this season and they look to attack the space.
Sport24 asked: You had a couple of options
when it came to teams after your services in South Africa. Who was the other
interested party and why did you decide on WP?
Jano Vermaak: The Sharks were the other
South African team keen on acquiring my signature. They wanted me to come over early
to play Super Rugby, but I couldn’t get an early release owing to my ongoing
commitments in France – we are playing against Oyonnax in the Top 14
quarterfinal on Saturday. I will link up with Western Province in time to play
Currie Cup rugby and will have to wait until 2016 to play Super Rugby for the
Stormers. I opted for Province because they are a young team that boasts an
abundance of talent.
Sport24 asked: You have said, "I’m
returning to South Africa with the goal of giving myself a chance of possibly
getting into the World Cup squad.” Why would it mean so much?
Jano Vermaak: It has always been a dream
of mine to play for the Springboks and to partake in a World Cup would be a
massive honour. If I don’t play in the World Cup, it’s not the end of the world
– I can always set my sights on the Rugby Championships and the end-of-year
tour – but I’m coming back to South Africa to give myself a chance of World Cup
selection. I have met with Heyneke Meyer, and what he expects from me is a
sound tactical kicking game, crisp service to the flyhalf and the ability to
control the backs, as well as the forwards.
Sport24 asked: What elements have you
added to your game since playing up north?
Jano Vermaak: I have learned to adapt my
playing style to suit the weather conditions. We tend to play a lot in wet
weather here, and I have honed my control, passing and kicking accuracy. When
the ball is wet and slippery, as a scrumhalf you have to be able to play closer
to the forwards and be more conservative. However, when conditions allow for a
more expansive game, I pride myself on my swift service to the flyhalf. I have
enjoyed the privilege of partnering both Luke McAlister and Toby Flood at the
club, and the pair are world-class players. McAlister is more of an attacking
ten, whereas Flood is more tactical.
Sport24 asked: Gert Smal has said,
“Jano is a great team man and he will pass on all his experience to our younger
number nines.” Are you keen to assume a more senior role?
Jano Vermaak: For sure. At the age of
30, I have some experience which I would like to pass on to the younger players
coming through the ranks at Western Province. My advice to them would be to
always work hard, stay grounded and remain positive in times when the game
doesn’t go your way. My ability to keep calm under pressure in a match
situation comes down to the preparation I do during the week. Completing my
personal preparation early in the week puts me in a confident headspace heading
into a match. I believe that if you put in the hard work during the week, you
will reap the rewards come the weekend.
Sport24 asked: Fourie du Preez is
rated as the best scrumhalf of his generation. Why?
Jano Vermaak: Fourie’s ability to read
the game is second to none. Having worked with him at Springbok level, I’ve really
been impressed with the way in which he analyses the game. He also has an aura
around him, and his experience and execution makes him a great player.
Sport24 asked: Poor refereeing
performance has proved a feature of Super Rugby this season, but is it true
that the standard of refereeing in the Top 14 is even worse?
Jano Vermaak: The standard of
refereeing in France is lower than in South Africa. Back in South Africa, all
the referees are professional, however, some of the referees here are
semi-professional. It’s fair to say that in France the referees tend to favour
the home sides more often and, as such, you have to be even more up for it and
you have to bring your A game.
Sport24 asked: How would you compare
and contrast French and South African coaches?
Jano Vermaak: The rugby coach in France
takes on more of a managerial role, similar to soccer, and has two assistants
working for him. Managers are less hands-on and largely rely on their
assistants to do the most of the on-field work. Guy Noves, who is set for the
France job post-World Cup, gives us motivational speeches before a match. South
African coaches are definitely calmer than their French counterparts, but still
have the passion for the game.
Sport24 asked: How will the home
nations fare during the 2015 World Cup in England?
Jano Vermaak: I wouldn’t write off
either England or France, but Ireland are most definitely serious contenders.
They showed on the 2014 end-of-year tour that they are going to be a force to
be reckoned with. Their physicality at the breakdown has proved a feature of
their play, and last November they dominated the Springboks at ruck time. The
Irish are also a very tactical side and their 9-10 combination has always
worked well for them. I believe that if your kicking game is on song, you are
going to be a competitive team at the World Cup.
Sport24 asked: The South African
conference is now a three-horse race. As a former Lion, Bull and soon-to-be
Stormer, which team are you tipping to make the playoffs and why?
Jano Vermaak: I’m backing the Stormers,
because they have senior heads and awesome youngsters emerging. As a team, they
must just believe in themselves, keep ball possession and stick to their
structures of play in order to make the playoffs and
challenge for the title.
Roger De Sa
Hennie le Roux
Peter de Villiers
Braam van Straaten
Carel du Plessis
Joe van Niekerk