Duane Vermeulen says there is still time for South African rugby to address its issues ahead of the 2019 World Cup. JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff reports.
The Boks have regressed since finishing third at the 2015 World Cup. Under Allister Coetzee, the side has won 46% of its matches and slumped to several record defeats.
It’s believed that Coetzee will not continue as head coach beyond the current tour to the northern hemisphere. New director of Rassie Erasmus is expected to appoint a new group of assistants and be more hands-on himself in terms of coaching in 2018.
The Boks lost to Ireland by a record score in Dublin two weeks ago. The side have shown more fight and accuracy in subsequent matches – admittedly against poor France and Italy teams. The inclusion of experienced players like Vermeulen and Francois Louw has had a positive influence on the side.
Vermeulen and Louw won’t be available for the final clash of the season against Wales. That said, there is a feeling among the players that something was gained in Paris and Padua, and that the Boks will have a platform from which to build in 2018 and in the lead up to the 2019 World Cup.
‘Maybe you can’t influence a side in two weeks, but then again I hope myself and Flo left a little bit for the guys to think about and to work on,’ said Vermeulen, who led the team when Eben Etzebeth left the field in Paris and again in Padua.
‘I know the pressure is there and the SA public is never happy, but the team must focus on its own goals. It may have been an ugly couple of years, but we know what we want to achieve come the World Cup.
‘Hopefully the team can take that forward and keep the flag flying [against Wales in Cardiff].’
Vermeulen, who is responsible for the defence on the field, praised the Boks for keeping Italy tryless this past Saturday.
‘The Italy attack put us under massive pressure. They carried well and I think they had more territory throughout the game.
‘It was a difficult game. It was nice to see the defence holding out and not conceding any tries. We worked hard on that during the week. I’m pretty chuffed with the way things went.
‘We went into the game with a plan and we were determined to execute. Sometimes we put ourselves under pressure by not executing properly. For the most part, we were in control.
‘At the end of the day it’s a great outcome, especially after last year’s result [a historic defeat] against Italy.’
From a personal point of view, Vermeulen said that he is determined to be part of the team in the years to come.
‘It’s been a great two weeks for me. To come into a team that was under a bit of pressure, it wasn’t easy.
‘It was good to get to know some of the newer guys. There’s a lot of potential there. I really cherished this opportunity and am a bit sad to be leaving [and returning to Toulon],’ he said.
Photo: Gabriele Maltinti/Gallo Images