Fri 5 Mar 2021 | 07:00

How Boks will prepare to take on B&I Lions in their back yard

How Boks will prepare to take on B&I Lions in their back yard
Fri 5 Mar 2021 | 07:00
How Boks will prepare to take on B&I Lions in their back yard
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INTERVIEW: South Africa’s Player of the Year Duane Vermeulen said it is vital that the Springboks have some ‘international’ competition before tackling the British and Irish Lions.

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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 – after being named his country’s best player.

“We are on track and we are doing a bit of low key fitness.

“I am happy with where I am at the moment.”

Vermeulen said he hopes thing could change soon so that the B&I Lions tour could still proceed in South Africa, but added that they will be happy to play them ‘anywhere’.

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“You only get them [Lions – touring your country] every 12 years.

“For our [SA] economy, the masses of people that could be coming into South Africa, spending some Pounds in the country on tourism, it would be a pity if it doesn’t happen in South Africa.”

He added they will “adapt” if the Boks have to travel to the United Kingdom for a Test series against the Lions.

“In the past two years we have tried to adapt to all the different scenarios the pandemic has thrown at us,” Vermeulen said, adding: “If it happens and we have to go play there, then we can’t really do anything about it.

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“We just have to prepare and go play the games.

“We haven’t played any Springbok rugby for the past couple of months [since the World Cup in November 2019]. If we can play, it doesn’t matter where we can play, as long as we are playing, that would be positive for SA Rugby.”

He suggested the ideal would be to play ‘one or two matches’ as a Bok team – with recent reports suggested the United States Eagles are being lined up for a possible warm-up Test.

“We need to see where they are at.

“One or two warm-up games would certainly be beneficial for the team.

“They [the B&I Lions] have been part of an international set-up, playing in the Six Nations. They will be used to Test-match rugby.

“[The goal] for us would be to see how quickly we can get back to where we ended in 2019,” he said of the victorious World Cup campaign in Japan.

“It would be fantastic if we win it, without Test-match rugby for [nearly] two years.”

The other option to prepare the players – if the tour does happen to go ahead in the UK and Ireland and Test matches are hard to come by – getting the SA franchises to play in the Rainbow Cup against the Pro14 teams will be vital.

“It would be really beneficial for us, going up against guys who might be selected for the Lions series and getting used to the conditions – if it happens that we have to go and play the series in the UK,” Vermeulen told the media briefing.

“Also for SA Rugby to see how we perform in those conditions, to see who they can rely on and who they can pick for those specific conditions.

“For the franchises, it is really important to go play there.

“We are done with Super Rugby and we need something else.

“We can’t just play domestic rugby, otherwise we will be going backwards – you need a different challenge.”

@king365ed
@rugby365com

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