Vermeulen: Boks are playing against England, not Proudfoot

Duane Vermeulen says he is more focused on his battle with the English back row than a reunion with former Springbok forwards coach Matt Proudfoot, with whom he shares a close relationship.

The match between the Springboks and England at Twickenham on Saturday will pit the South Africans against a pack coached by Proudfoot, who was in charge of the Bok forwards between 2018 and 2019.

Vermeulen and Proudfoot have a particularly long relationship, having started working together at the Stormers over 10 years ago.

Their closeness was shown when the pair tearfully embraced in the aftermath of the 2019 World Cup final. It was later revealed that during the embrace, Proudfoot whispered, ‘This is for him’, referring to Vermeulen’s father, Andre, who passed away when Vermeulen was eight years old.

Duane Vermeulen and Matt Proudfoot embrace
Duane Vermeulen and Matt Proudfoot embrace

“We shared a lot of special things,” Vermeulen said. “He knows my whole history, growing up and things like that. We worked together back at Western Province and the Stormers, so we have known each other for quite some time and, obviously, you build good relationships.

“Obviously, he knows me personally and knows my way of thinking, what I am playing for and what I stand for as a person. We will be playing against the players he coaches, not coming up against him.

“There might be a trick or two up our sleeves and there might be a trick or two up England’s sleeves. You never know, we can only see that on the day. You never know what’s coming.”

This weekend’s match has been touted as a repeat of the 2019 World Cup final, but Vermeulen says the Springboks have left that game in the past, other than looking at how England have evolved their gameplan since.

“We have mentioned it just a little bit. We have just looked at how we played, how England played and how things have changed during the past couple of years.

“There has been the Covid situation, so there isn’t a lot to look at. That game is in the past and you need to stay in the now and look to the future.

“We can only look at what we have and what we have seen so far and take it from there.”

Nevertheless, Vermeulen is expecting a challenging breakdown battle with England’s in-form back row of Tom Curry, Sam Underhill and Courtney Lawes.

“If you look at Curry and Underhill, they played in 2019. Courtney Lawes was the other loose forward they had. Coming up against those guys, they are really good at the breakdown. It’s going to be a difficult task for us. The form that they are in, is great. It will be a great battle for us.

“We as a loose trio are trying to keep it simple, trying to play as consistently as possible and trying to build on what we have done during the week and how we performed the previous week.”

Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images

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Dylan Jack