Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White has hailed the commitment of captain Duane Vermeulen, who he says is ‘fired up’ for Saturday’s clash against Western Province, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Bulls claimed the maiden Super Rugby Unlocked title this past weekend, with Vermeulen playing a typically influential role as both a leader and experienced member of the back row.
As was the case last year, Vermeulen linked up with the Bulls after a campaign with the Kubota Spears in Japan, agreeing to join the Pretoria-based franchise despite the fact his wife and two sons are in Cape Town.
Living in a hotel within walking distance of Loftus Versfeld, Vermeulen’s commitment to the Bulls is something that White reiterated should not be underestimated.
‘Let’s be fair and say he was man-of-the-match in the Rugby World Cup final, and now he’s not staying with his family – his family are down in Cape Town, his kids obviously go to school there.
‘He doesn’t get to see them as much as he would like, but he’s come in here, he’s given 100%, lives in a hotel. He’s here all the time, he doesn’t fly up and down. What more can you want from a guy? He’s there, he’s fronting up, he’s playing 80 minutes every week. It can’t be easy for him, and yet, he knows it’s important to be the leader.
‘He knows it’s important that he’s got to show the team that he’s in. We had some stern talks with lots of players about the fact that if you want to stay at the Bulls, you’ve got to show that you are committed. And I can’t question that. No one can question that. I think the team sees just how committed he is. I don’t say it lightly when I tell you that he’s really looking forward to this game. He’s been waiting a long time for this game.’
For Vermeulen, this weekend presents an opportunity for him to return to the Cape, while coming up against his former team – with the powerful No 8 having represented WP and the Stormers between 2009 and 2015.
‘This is the best he’s ever felt in a long time,’ White commented. ‘He says he can’t wait to get to Newlands and play against Western Province. He knows the ground well and he’s got an added energy this week. I’m not sure why, he’s probably going home to see his family a bit. He’s going to play at Newlands. He knows all those players, and it’s the best I’ve seen him and the most fired-up I’ve seen him in a long time.
‘He knows this is the big one at Newlands, and there’s obviously a lot of Springboks that are playing this weekend and he wants to play well against them. There are a lot of added incentives for him to really put a performance on.’