If there is one area where you will not battle to find an abundance of great South African players, then it is amongst the loosies. But one name does stand out …
OVER the next few weeks, our rugby writers will be debating their Springbok choices from No.15 to No.1 for the upcoming series against the British & Irish Lions. Today we focus on No.8:
ASHFAK MOHAMED’S CHOICE: DUANE VERMEULEN
He had to have his troublesome knee “cleaned out” during the off-season once more, but since Duane Vermeulen got a few games under his belt, he is quickly regaining the form that made him the Man of the Match in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final.
He was understandably rusty in his first game back, but he is getting better and better. A strong ball-carrier, his defensive work is a key part of the Bulls and Boks’ success, while he has that knack of stealing balls at the breakdown as well.
Injuries to Juarno Augustus and Sikhumbuzo Notshe have stalled their progress, and there haven’t really been any challengers for Vermeulen’s No 8 jersey. Stormers youngster Evan Roos has shown good potential.
MORGAN BOLTON’S CHOICE: DUANE VERMEULEN
If there is one area where you will not battle to find an abundance of great South African players, then it is amongst the loosies.
The Springboks are blessed with heaps of eighthmen and flankers that could easily play for the national team. But, right now, there is no reason not to continue with Thor – Duane Vermeulen – at the back of the scrum.
In recent weeks the Bulls captain has started to put in formidable displays for the Pretoria-based side, and is as physical as they come. The talk around town is that Leicester Tiger’s Jasper Wiese will also be named in the Bok squad, as will Marcell Coetzee.
Both of those are fine understudies, no doubt, but Wiese is arguably an unknown quantity having played all his rugby in Europe, while Coetzee has not yet been seen with a rugby ball in hand since returning to the country to join the Bulls.
WYNONA LOUW’S CHOICE: DUANE VERMEULEN
Probably not much of an explanation needed here. Who deserves the No.8 jersey more than him? Having last played in the Currie Cup final, Vermeulen made a timeous return in Round Two of the Rainbow Cup.
The 34-year-old was one of the Bulls’ most influential players before his injury, leading them to Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup glory. Also, who can forget what a beast he was during the World Cup?
Simply put, there is no other contender who’s come close to Vermeulen during the domestic season, not even when you consider the guys playing abroad. He got right back into it upon making his return, and seeing him build on that weekly has been a pleasing sight.
MIKE GREENAWAY’S CHOICE: DUANE VERMEULEN
The “Great Dane” is critical to the Boks’ hope of defeating the Lions and Jacques Nienaber will be holding thumbs that the 34-year-old stays intact over the remainder of the Rainbow Cup.
He was immense for the Boks in their World Cup triumph on a number of fronts — his powerful surges with ball in hand, his bone-crunching defence and his strong leadership, which was of significant assistance to captain Siya Kolisi.
Put simply, a player of Vermeulen’s experience and presence cannot be bought and would be very difficult to replace. It is a pity that injured Sikhumbuzo Notshe will not be around to back him up but has anybody seen how well Dan du Plessis is playing for the Sale Sharks?