Revealed: When the 'legend' Duane Vermeulen will be back for Boks
World Cup-winning Springbok No.8 Duane Vermeulen is unlikely to feature in the British and Irish Lions series – barring a miracle ahead of the third Test – but is a good bet for the Rugby Championship.
That is the news from Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White.
Speaking after his team had comprehensively beaten Western Province 34-13 in a Currie Cup Round Eight match at Newlands on Friday, White said Vermeulen is now “actively” taking part in training at the Bulls.
The 35-year-old loose forward has been an integral part of the Bulls and Boks the last few years.
He underwent surgery after injuring his ankle while on Rainbow Cup duty with the Bulls and is in the final stages of his rehabilitation in Pretoria.
“He was pushing really hard to see if he could be available [for the third Test] next week,” White said.
“I think it is probably a bridge too far.”
The Bulls boss suggested his return could come in the first or second Rugby Championship Tests against Argentina – both in Port Elizabeth, on August 14 and 21.
“Whether they [the Bok coaching staff] want him to go straight into a Test match or whether they want him to play provincial rugby, I will have to find out from [SA Director of Rugby] Rassie [Erasmus] or [Bok coach] Jacques [Nienaber].
“He rehabilitation is going really well.
“If all things continue to go as well as it is, he is probably three to four weeks away [from playing again].”
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Meanwhile, White said the veteran No.8 will only be a ‘water boy’ for home games, at Loftus Versfeld.
This came after Vermeulen acted as an on-field assistant during a Currie Cup match against the Lions just over a week ago.
“He is working hard at getting back into shape, to make himself available for selection,” the Bulls’ Director of Rugby said.
While Vermeulen’s family still live in Cape Town, he is based in Pretoria.
“He spends a lot of time with our medical staff, who are helping him with his rehabilitation.”
White said Vermeulen’s role in the team – as a water boy – is not a ‘gimmick’.
“He wants to be there and he wants to be part of it [the team].
“He is of great value to us and players enjoy his calmness and his voice [advice] in the game.”
White said that Vermeulen’s track record speaks for itself – a player who boasts a Man of the Match award in the 2019 World Cup Final.
“I use him as an example to the [Bulls] players,” the coach said, adding: “He lives in Cape Town and chooses to do his rehabilitation in Pretoria.
“Gio Aplon is the same. He is still there [in Pretoria] doing his rehabilitation.
“They epitomise the things a coach wants. They want to get back on the field. They are at the team all the time.
“If it means carrying water on matchday, or Gio Aplon standing at training watching, in the gym talking to someone also going through a difficult time. He builds the player up – telling him he is young and his opportunities will still come.
“Those are the things that people don’t see, but as a coach is as important – if not sometimes more important – than actually what happens on the field.
“Duane still wants to play rugby, but the fact that is there and wants to be part of it, comes down to watch training without even asking.
“Sometimes I have to stop him from giving ‘too much’ advice.
“It is better to have to curb enthusiasm, rather than trying to get players to show enthusiasm.
“That sums him up for me. He is important to us – his calmness helps the players and they get confidence out of seeing that he wants to be part of the team.