Veteran No 8 Duane Vermeulen says former Stormers teammate Siya Kolisi will make a fine Springbok captain, reports JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.
Last week, Bok coach Rassie Erasmus confirmed that Kolisi was the man to lead the side across the three Tests against England this June.
With Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth recovering from serious injuries, and with the uncertainty over Vermeulen’s availability for the 2018 Rugby Championship, many felt that Kolisi was the obvious choice to lead the side.
Speaking from the team’s base in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Vermeulen offered an informed view on the decision.
Vermeulen worked closely with Kolisi when the latter was rising through the Stormers ranks between 2012 and 2015. He and Kolisi played together in the Bok back row in the ensuing years. The pair last started together in the win against France in Paris last November.
‘I always knew that there was something special about Siya, even during those early days at the Stormers,’ said Vermeulen.
‘As it is with younger players, it took him a few seasons to understand his game. That said, he’s always been someone I’ve respected both on and off the field.
‘Siya is a good leader and a great choice to lead the Boks.’
Vermeulen went on to speak about his own role as a leader in the Bok set-up. While he is expected to start in the next three Tests, his availability for the subsequent Rugby Championship remains unclear.
‘That’s something that still needs to be sorted out. Hopefully, we will have some clarity by the end of this series against England,’ he said.
Vermeulen indicated that the changes made to the Bok set-up this season have impressed him and that he hopes to be part of the team in the build-up to the 2019 World Cup.
The robust No 8 recently parted ways with Toulon after a three-year stint with the French club.
‘Last year, it was almost as if one coach was coming to the end of his tenure. I remember coming into the squad [ahead of the Test against France in November] and you could tell by the players’ body language that they weren’t in a good space.
‘There’s a new energy about the group this year, with a new coach in place and a new style of play on the cards. For me, it’s great to be back in South Africa. Getting the chance to enjoy the South African culture and speak Afrikaans again is fantastic.
‘I’ve got a burning desire to play for the Boks. I’ve walked a long road with Rassie [having played under Erasmus at the Cheetahs and then the Stormers] and he’s taught me a lot about the game.
‘I’m glad to have another opportunity to play for Rassie. He’s the right guy [to take the Boks forward]. Even at this stage of my career, I feel that I have room to grow and that Rassie has more to teach me.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) June 5, 2018
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images