Duane’s day to remember

Duane Vermeulen says the euphoria of beating the All Blacks will last much longer than the pain in his ribs, reports JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.

Vermeulen injured rib cartilage in the Test against the Wallabies, and was always in doubt to play against the All Blacks in the subsequent match at Ellis Park. Indeed, even in the final minutes before kick-off, the Springbok coaching staff wasn’t sure if the Springbok No 8 was ready to play.

Vermeulen not only played, but produced a Man of the Match performance to help South Africa beat New Zealand 27-25. Afterwards, Meyer said the accolade was deserved and that Vermeulen represents everything that is good about this Bok unit.

‘Duane is an unbelievable warrior,’ said the Bok coach. ‘He trained on Friday, but I said we would make the final call on his availability on Saturday. Then during the warm-ups, I chatted to [captain] Jean de Villiers and we didn’t think Duane would make it.

‘I said to Duane, if he was going to play he needed to play for 80 minutes. He said he was ready. There was a point in the game where I thought I should take him off, but he assured me he was good to play another 30 minutes.

‘It was a special performance,’ Meyer added. ‘He’s pushing hard to not only be the best No 8 in the world, but the best player in the world.’

Vermeulen said afterwards that there was no way he was going to miss out on a chance to play against, and possibly beat, the All Blacks.

‘I had an injection, and I think it lasts six hours, so I can’t feel anything yet,’ he laughed, the big smile contrasting the cuts and bruises on his face.

‘I always wanted to play, and I always felt I would be ready. It was only when people kept asking me during the week if I was ready that I started to doubt it. But in the end, I knew I wanted to be part of this, I wanted to remember this day, to make memories.

‘Beating the All Blacks … it’s just an incredible feeling. We didn’t play well in the second half, but to beat New Zealand is something I’ve never achieved in my career, and I will cherish the moment for a long time.’

Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli