‘Boks will cope without Duane’

The injury to star loose forward Duane Vermeulen won’t compromise the Springboks’ approach against Argentina, says Allister Coetzee. JON CARDINELLI in Nelspruit reports.

The Bok coach appears to be in good spirits. Speaking from a sunlit courtyard at the team hotel in Nelspruit, Coetzee said that there is a buzz about this Bok team on the eve of the 2016 Rugby Championship.

One has to wonder if the confidence is genuine. The Boks were poor in the recent Test series against Ireland. Their chances of improving against the likes of Argentina, Australia and New Zealand in the Rugby Championship have been compromised with news that Vermeulen, one of their key players at the breakdown and gainline, has sustained a serious knee injury.

On Monday, Coetzee moved to allay concerns regarding Vermeulen’s injury, and what it may mean for the Boks in the Rugby Championship. Initial reports suggested that Vermeulen has been ruled out for the duration of the tournament. Coetzee, however, is hoping to have his star No 8 and defensive talisman back in action for the second half of the competition.

Until then, Warren Whiteley is likely to start at No 8. According to Coetzee, the uncapped Sikhumbuzo Notshe will provide cover for this position going forward.

‘It’s always a setback to lose a player of Duane’s calibre and experience. But I believe that we are well covered in that position,’ Coetzee said.

‘Look, it swings in roundabouts. You lose some physicality [with Vermeulen being ruled out], but then you gain some flair as well as the ability to cover ground [with Whiteley’s inclusion].

‘Don’t get me wrong, though. I know that it’s all about getting the balance right at this level. We will need to make up for that physicality somewhere. You can’t get quick ball to the backs and you can’t play a running game if you are not winning the gainline battle.’

Siya Kolisi and Schalk Burger are also unavailable at present. Coetzee, however, feels the Boks have some good loose-forward options at their disposal.

The Bok coach mentioned Whiteley and Notshe as his No 8 options. Oupa Mohoje appears to be in line for an opportunity at blindside flank, while Pieter-Steph du Toit is, according to Coetzee, set to cover blindside flank. Francois Louw and Jaco Kriel are the two openside flankers in the squad.

‘Ireland put us under pressure in that recent series in South Africa. It’s all about improving our ball-carrying [in the coming tournament] as that influences how you fare at the breakdown.

‘Body height at the breakdown is so important. We saw how well the Lions did in this area in the Super Rugby tournament. Their carrying was good, and then their body height at the first breakdown was good. This allowed them to build momentum against opposition defences.’

Photo: Gallo Images

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Jon Cardinelli