Springbok veteran Duane Vermeulen has shared his pride in how Jasper Wiese stepped up in his injury-enforced absence during the Lions series and Rugby Championship Tests against Argentina. DYLAN JACK reports.
There were huge concerns when Vermeulen limped off the field in the first half of the Bulls’ derby against Western Province, played on the eve of the Lions series back in June.
Those concerns were ramped up when it was confirmed that he would have to undergo surgery on his ankle and would be in a race against time to prove his fitness for the three-Test series against the British & Irish Lions.
The man of the match in the 2019 World Cup final and the Springboks’ vice-captain, Vermeulen was seen as one of the players the team could least afford to lose, especially as there were few candidates who matched his experience.
After initially backing Kwagga Smith at No 8, the Springbok coaches gave Wiese an opportunity in the latter two Tests against the Lions and he grabbed it with both hands, playing an influential role in the riveting series.
It was in South Africa’s first game of the 2021 Rugby Championship, against Argentina last week, that Wiese produced his breakthrough performance – so much so that it earned him the man-of-the-match award.
A fit-again Vermeulen is now set to return to the match-day squad for the upcoming Rugby Championship clash with Australia on 12 September, but he said in an online media conference on Tuesday that he was delighted with how Wiese filled his boots.
“I only played one game against him when he still played for the Free State Cheetahs. He had a massive presence on the field,” Vermeulen said. “Then he went abroad to play for Leicester and had a fantastic season for them.
“Obviously, I was very happy for him to get the call-up for the Boks and get an opportunity to play. He has really been playing well.
“I am very happy for him. It’s nice to have someone like him filling your boots. He has really stepped up and put up his hand. I am looking to working alongside him and hopefully, we can share some tricks.
“He is a fantastic guy and a really hard worker. I am looking forward to seeing how he grows throughout his career.”
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