Jake White has heaped praise on Vodacom Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen following a superb individual performance in their semi-final win over the Lions at Loftus on Saturday.
The Bulls had many standout performers at Loftus, none more so that two-try hero Stravino Jacobs, master tactician Morne Steyn and official Man of the Match Cornal Hendricks. But White singled Vermeulen out for his influential display, his decision-making as skipper and his overall leadership of his team.
‘You’ve got to have an understanding that a captain has on-field intuition. Duane knows what’s going on, he probably had a sense too that certain things were working. And you’ve got to trust him.
‘Never underestimate what a good captain means to a team. Duane was outstanding. The way in which he handled things, how he talked to the players, it’s inspiring. Remember, after two minutes in the second half, we were 14-0 ahead. A few minutes later, it was 14-all.
‘It’s a great thing if your captain can still show calmness in a situation like that. But Duane also mentioned in the changeroom afterwards that he might’ve come up with the words, but that he’s just grateful to see how the rest of the team responded, how determined they were to pull things through.
‘That’s not necessarily a tough thing to do when your leader is performing well himself. Let’s not forget that Duane played really well too. He definitely made an impact as player too, not just as leader,’ said White.
‘I’m confident the Lions saw today that he was actually operating on another level. And that’s what you want, you want your best players to perform in these crunch games, you want them delivering their best and Duane was one of them,’ he added.
White was also full of praise for the youngsters in the Bulls squad, particularly for the 20-year-old Jacobs who scored a brace in what could be described as his breakthrough game.
‘He should’ve had a hat-trick, I don’t know what went through his mind,’ White said in reference to Jacobs making a knock on in the in-goal area when all he should have done was dot down to score.
‘He’s just come out of junior rugby, same as David Kriel. Kurt-Lee Arendse is new to fifteens and was out for a while. They’re going to make mistakes, but to see their work ethic is amazing.’
Commenting on the game itself and the result for the Bulls, White explained: ‘The nice thing is that we’ve had really good fighting spirit in the second half – I said it last week as well, that we won most of the second halves. After being 14-0 up and then two minutes later 14-all, some sides would maybe start to panic. The fact that we regrouped and ended up showing lots of composure is obviously satisfying for me as a coach.
‘We squeezed them and squeezed them and squeezed them, and at 11-0, it was a true reflection, even though we didn’t have a lot of the ball. The one thing the Lions have consistently done well over the last couple of years is that they come prepared and are not going to go away.
‘They are a very difficult team to play against, and I was always aware of the fact that they will make it tough for you to win games. They weren’t going to lie down and die.’
Photo: Bulls Rugby/Gallo Images