Vermeulen 'switched on' and ready for big year
Cape Town - Duane Vermeulen is taking nothing for granted in what
is a big year for South African rugby. Not his status as one of the senior
members of the Bulls team, nor his place in the Springbok squad for the
upcoming Rugby World Cup.
Quite frankly, Vermeulen’s succinct description of
what it’s going to take for the Springboks to win the World Cup in Japan
can just as well serve as his own philosophy for 2019: “If you’re not switched
on on the day, you’re screwed”.
Now in only his second week of having traded Cape
Town’s Table Mountain for Pretoria’s Klapperkop, Vermeulen is as switched on as
ever for a Super Rugby season he believes has all the ingredients for
being a memorable one.
“What a fantastic start,” he said of the opening
#SuperHeroSunday double-header in Cape Town, which launched the new
collaboration with Marvel.
“It’s such a great initiative. It was an unbelievable
atmosphere. That’s what it’s about - getting people excited about rugby like
that. You saw kids and adults just as excited and it was so great to see the
fans come out like they did.”
In what was his first game in the Captain
America-inspired kit of the Bulls, and against his former team the Stormers, Vermeulen admits he did hear a few boos from the crowd whenever he
touched the ball.
“Even if I had a few boos here and there, it was just
great to play my first game in South Africa again in that atmosphere. We had
such great support, and it was a good 40-minute hit-out for me. As for the
team, the whole idea in these pre-season games is just to see how we play
together and understand each other better. It was good to see us go through a
few phases and score a few tries. You know, we just went out there to see if
all the guys can connect and play together, and then it’s all about execution
But Vermeulen isn’t looking too far ahead into the
season just yet.
“I’m just taking it step-by-step. You know, in a year
like this, you cannot plan too far ahead. You’ve really just got to work hard,
take care of your body, and be in a good mental space in every single game you
play. And then you need to be ready to take your opportunities when they come.
When it comes to the Springboks and the World Cup, my attitude is that it’s
still a race for everyone, and it’s still open to everyone to pull on that
And it’s a similar view that he has on the Springboks’ World Cup chances this year.
“You know, I don’t think there is a standout favourite
to win this World Cup. I think there are about eight teams that can really
compete for it. It’s pretty open. That makes it good for us, but it can also be
a dangerous spot to be in because anyone can win it. So if you’re not switched
on on the day, you’re screwed”.
But there’s another side to this season that Vermeulen
is also looking forward to, and that’s the support they’ll be giving to CHOC
(the Childhood Cancer Foundation) through the #TacklingCancer initiative. For
every tackle made by a South African rugby player in this year’s Super
Rugby competition, Vodacom and SuperSport will together donate R100 to CHOC.
“We’re supporting a great cause with CHOC this year.
It’s good to be able to make a difference in this way. I think it’s going to be
a great season all round.”
It’s certainly a big rugby year in Duane’s world. And
he’s as switched on as he needs to be for it.
The Bulls will be hosting the Stormers on
Saturday, February 16 in their opening clash of the 2019 Super Rugby
KIck-off is at 17:15.