Duane Vermeulen says the Springboks needed to ‘tame the England talismans’ in Saturday’s Test at Free State Stadium, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Bloemfontein.
Vermeulen walked away with the Man of the Match award after producing an immense all-round effort that helped inspire the Boks to a memorable 23-12 win over England, which also enabled them to take an unassailable 2-0 series lead.
The big No 8 was often at the centre of Saturday’s war of attrition, with England having looked to take the Boks on physically, while there were noticeably a number of off-the-ball incidents.
However, this confrontational approach from England appeared to backfire as Vermeulen rose to the physical challenge – fronting up as a ball-carrier and defender, but also when a couple of scuffles broke out.
Chatting to the media after the game, Vermeulen hinted that some of England’s tactics had only served to further fire him up.
‘We knew in a way that it [off-the-ball incidents] was going to happen, there are some guys in the England squad that are their talisman, and we needed to tame them. As a team, we needed to stand together, and that’s what happened, you saw how all the guys came running in to protect their mate. That’s the type of culture we want in this team where we all stand up and fight for each other.
‘The most important thing that has stood out from our jersey presentations [conducted by Bakkies Botha and André Venter] from the last two Tests is that you have to earn respect, and that’s what I think the guys are doing. You need to give everything for the guy next to you.’
Over the first two Tests against England, Vermeulen has also received plenty of praise for the leadership and guidance he has offered in support of new skipper Siya Kolisi, particularly as the visitors made storming starts to both matches.
Vermeulen explained how this was simply all part of the team’s group leadership plans.
‘We had a good chat with Rassie [Erasmus] and the coaches, and Siya came up with the idea of getting specific leaders in specific positions. So I’ll look to run the defence on the pitch, and if you talk about attack you’ll get Handré [Pollard] and Faf [de Klerk]. Then there’s Willie [Le Roux] and Handré looking after the exits, and Bongi [Mbonambi] is a leader with the scrums. So that takes some of the pressure off Siya so that he can just focus on the referee. I think all the leaders work well together.’
Although Vermeulen has made a meaningful impact for the Boks both on and off the field, the fact remains that he may be unavailable for certain Rugby Championship Tests due to club commitments.
It’s a balancing act that Erasmus has accepted after seeing the influence of the overseas-based players, who have all impressed over the first two Tests against England.
‘Hell, Duane is bringing some very accurate rugby on the field, which is very pleasing,’ the Bok coach commented. ‘He’s fit and sharp, he’s running great lines, he’s a wonderful defender and gets over the ball. I know him and Siya have worked closely with other guys about the team game plan and decision-making.
‘Sometimes you get guys like that who contribute a lot off the field in a leadership role, but he is also adding a lot on the field, and we’re very blessed to have guys like that who are so committed to the cause.’
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