ThorMeulen: Jake got it 'spot on' at Loftus
INTERVIEW: South Africa’s Player of the Year Duane Vermeulen believes the astute management of Jake White took the Bulls from also-rans to leaders of the pack.
The man, affectionately known as ‘Thor’, was addressing the media after he walked off with two awards this week – SA Rugby Player of the Year and Super Rugby Unlocked Player of the Year.
He captained the Bulls to victory in the Unlocked and Currie Cup competitions – crediting Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White for setting the very high.
“If he [White] doesn’t have the right people, he will get the right people,” Vermeulen said of the World Cup-winning former Springbok coach.
He said White ensured he recruited players that fit into the concept and the game plan he has.
“He got it spot on with a lot of the things he did,” Vermeulen said, adding: “Going forward there will be challenges.
“When he started we were part of the chasing pack, not the front-runners.
“We won Super Rugby Unlocked and the Currie Cup and it looks like things are going great.
“Now the rest are chasing us.
“We have to ensure we stay ahead and stay motivated.”
It is not just the astute recruiting of players that helped the Bulls, but also among the management staff where White had the Midas touch.
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“The additions he added [to the management staff], with [mental coach] Henning Gericke [was a masterstroke].
“They worked together for a long time [during the World Cup-winning era of 2004 to 2007].
“That was a great addition to our team.
“Within this environment – with the COVID pandemic, and no crowds – having had Henning [Gericke] as out mental coach and his approach, working with the guys, that was a massive bonus for us.
“Henning helped us to stay focussed. It is a great set-up [at the Bulls].”
He admitted that a few years ago he would not have thought he would play for the Bulls.
“However, this is a great group and fantastic management.”
Vermeulen, 34, is in his fourth week of rehabilitation after a surgical procedure to clean up some knee cartilage.
He said he expects to be back in action “pretty soon” and playing a Test against the B&I Lions is high on his bucket list.
“I have started the rehabilitation with Rene [Naylor, Springbok physiotherapist],” the burly loose forward told a virtual media briefing.
“We are on track and we are doing a bit of low key fitness.
“I am happy with where I am at the moment.”