Duane Vermeulen has toiled to reach and maintain the required levels of conditioning to secure his place as a power forward in the Springbok pack.
The battle-hardened veteran has been a renewed force in the Bok back row this year and looks set to start in South Africa’s 2023 Rugby World Cup opener against Scotland on Sunday.
Vermeulen saw his place in the starting lineup come under threat from the rise of Jasper Wiese and Evan Roos, while he was struggling with persistent injury niggles.
However, after agreeing to take a break from Test rugby and focus more on performing at club level for Irish side Ulster, the 37-year old was named among the 33 players that will push to defend South Africa’s status as world champions.
“Just before I joined Ulster I was in a tough spot, the body was acting up,” he said.
“I thought maybe I should have called it a day back in 2019. The coaches reassured me to play on. Since playing my first game this year for the Boks, I’ve actually really enjoyed it.
“Mobility and flexibility get harder as you get older and you watch the young guys in the reviews and think, ‘jeez, I better catch up,’ and I’ve worked at it and now my mobility is better than some of the young guys.
“I’m calling on that last bit of energy that’s in you and you know you want to push and finish on a high, so that’s where I am at the moment.”
Focusing on Sunday’s opener in Marseilles, Vermeulen paid tribute to the threat posed by talismanic Scotland flyhalf Finn Russell.
“He’s a magician with ball in hand. He’s got a massive playbook in his head and is just a fantastic individual player,” said Vermeulen.
“Scotland love to play on quick ball and Finn Russell is the kingpin in that position.
“It’s a guy we really have to sit down and have video sessions on and have a look at what he does.”
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