Springbok assistant coach Deon Davids has confirmed that Duane Vermeulen continues to undergo medical examination, but is expected to be part of Monday’s training session. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Vermeulen has been intensively undergoing rehabilitation on a serious ankle injury suffered on the eve of the Lions series, which required surgery and led to doubts over his availability for the series.
In recent weeks, the Bok coaches suggested that Vermeulen only had an “outside chance” of possibly being available for the third and final Test.
This past Sunday, the Boks decided to call up the 35-year-old, which may have been a move partly triggered by an injury doubt over Pieter-Steph du Toit, who picked up a shoulder injury over the weekend.
In Vermeulen’s absence for the first two Tests, the Boks first started Kwagga Smith at No 8 before moving Jasper Wiese into this frontline role on Saturday.
Interestingly, Vermeulen has apparently been “actively” taking part in training with the Bulls recently, but coach Jake White suggested this past weekend that featuring against the Lions would probably be a “bridge too far”.
“If all things continue to go as well as it is, he is probably three to four weeks away [from playing],” White added.
In this context, it remains to be seen whether Vermeulen would actually be a realistic selection option for the Boks this week, particularly considering that the team announcement is set for Tuesday.
The greater likelihood is that the World Cup winner will rather serve in a role closer aligned to player-coach, offering guidance and assistance both in training and analysis as the Boks prepare for this Saturday’s series decider.
At Monday’s Springbok media briefing, Davids said the squad was still going through the usual 48-hour medical assessments, and while not giving much away, he hailed the influence of Vermeulen.
“It’s really fantastic to have Duane back with the group, he’ll be joining our training session today and has already been part of review sessions. We will hopefully have more details on his injury by tomorrow [Tuesday].”
Davids added that a decision on Ox Nche’s injury would also be taken over the next day, but last week his injury was described as “serious” by Rassie Erasmus.