Bulls boss Jake White is adamant that the injured Duane Vermeulen will recover in time to play a role for the Springboks against the British & Irish Lions.
Vermeulen hobbled from the field in the first half of Friday’s match between the Bulls and Stormers after he was caught awkwardly in a tackle. He travelled to Cape Town immediately to undergo scans, which revealed he had sustained severe ankle ligament damage and he set for several weeks on the sidelines.
The 34-year-old underwent successful surgery on his ankle on Wednesday, but the recovery from such an injury can take anything from five to 16 weeks.
With the first Test taking place on 24 July, Vermeulen has less than seven weeks to recover if he hopes to fulfil a career goal of facing the Lions as a Springbok.
But White believes Vermeulen’s mental fortitude will help him recover in no time and that he could feature at some point in the tour, even if it’s in the latter stages.
‘I don’t think all is lost by any stretch of the imagination,’ White said on Thursday.
‘I know how these injuries go. Jesse Kriel told everyone this week how he recovered from a similar injury in double quick time before the World Cup in 2019. And I’ve also been chatting to our medical staff and it seems a lot of players have had similar surgeries and are back within seven weeks.
‘If you work out the sums, Duane might not be 100% ready for the first Test on 24 July, but he could play in the last two matches. All is not lost. It would be great if he could play all three.’
‘He’s so positive. Mentally, he’s an unbelievably tough man,’ he added.
‘Who knows, players of his character recover much quicker than others. It was the same with a guy like Schalk Burger. I’m very confident Duane will feature.’
White created a hypothetical scenario, in which Vermeulen would score a series-winning try for the Boks, saying that would be ‘the perfect script’.
‘Imagine the series is deadlocked at one-all, we need to win it and Duane scores the match-winning try,’ said White.
‘That would also be a close to perfect script, similar to him winning the Man of the Match award in the World Cup final. Who knows? It could happen.’
Photo: Steve Haag