‘Whiteley could be Bok revelation’

Five former players and a coach on whether the Boks can win the World Cup without Duane Vermeulen and who should start at No 8 in the Rugby Championship.

Garry Pagel (former Bok prop)

'We should be able to win it without him, we're not a one-man team after all. With regards to who should replace him, I'd go with Pierre Spies for the experience he would bring to the position. Alternatively I'd like to see Warren Whitely tested to see if he has what it takes to play at international level.'

Ollie le Roux (former Bok prop)

'A team is not dependent on a single player. Many teams have gone to the World Cup and won with an important player missing, and this shows the importance of the team performance opposed to an individual's influence. Duane's absence will be a blow, but we have enough talented loose forwards to make up for it. I would go for either Warren Whiteley, who has proven to be a good leader as well as a good strategic No 8, or Schalk Burger. There's no more time for experimentation now, and Heyneke Meyer should be picking the guy he wants in the final should Duane not be fit for it.'

André Pretorius (former Bok flyhalf)

'We're definitely capable of winning it without Duane, but he's going to be a massive loss to the side. He'll be a huge part of Heyneke's plan, but you can't say that one player can lose or win you a World Cup. Willem Alberts has played No 8 before, I remember playing with him at the Lions when he was a No 8, so he's accustomed to it and would be an easy option as a specialist there.'

Robbie Kempson (former Bok prop)

'Yes, the Boks can win the World Cup without Duane. To be without a player of his stature is massive and it's an unfortunate loss. Luckily rugby is a team sport and Heyneke Meyer has a few excellent replacements he can call on. I'm sure none of his teammates take pleasure out of his struggles, but this is an ideal opportunity for someone to step up and do the job at hand. Willem Alberts is the most obvious choice to start at No 8 in the Rugby Championship if he's fit.'

Mark Andrews (former Bok lock and No 8)

'Of course the Boks can win it without Vermeulen. He is worth two players and his absence in a big year is a monumental blow, but no one is irreplaceable. It may seem like a tragedy, but it's better that he's having the operation now rather than playing through the pain and requiring surgery during the World Cup. Heyneke now has ample time in the Rugby Championship to test various players in that position before they head to England. No one cares about what will happen in the Rugby Championship anyway, the World Cup is top priority. Warren Whiteley should start, without a shadow of a doubt. If partnered with two big flanks on either side, he could be a revelation for the Boks.'

Jimmy Stonehouse (former Pumas coach)

'The Boks could still win the World Cup without him, but their chances would diminish. Heyneke has a big problem with Vermeulen and Alberts sidelined, as they are the best ball-carriers in the squad. Whiteley should be the next eighthman in line to start, but Heyneke will go for low-risk rugby, so perhaps we'll see Alberts shifted to the back in the Rugby Championship. He'll also start to look at Pierre Spies again, who I don't think is the answer.'

Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images