Cape Town – Duane Vermeulen has quickly developed into the hard man of South African rugby, but the Springbok No 8 did admit on Wednesday that the “heat is killing us!”
Despite a heavy schedule with the Boks in the second half of last season, Vermeulen says that he is “feeling great” and is ready for yet more gruelling rugby for the Stormers in 2013.
“I’m feeling great and I had a good rest. I have been training in the off-season, and we had an extra three weeks off – the guys who played for the Boks. That actually helped a lot, and at the moment, it’s good. It’s just the heat that’s killing us!” the big man said after practice in Bellville yesterday.
“I don’t think there is a real difference for me now that I am a Springbok. It was definitely nice to become a Bok and to play overseas and on those types of fields at the end of the year was a learning curve. But in the southern hemisphere, there are no slow fields, so you’ve still got to adapt to the rugby over here. Everybody knows how the other teams play, so we must just make that step up.”
The 26-year-old has become an integral part of the Stormers set-up, and his injury-enforced absence in the last two Super Rugby semi-finals was one of the main reasons why the Cape side came up short in 2011 and 2012.
To that end, coach Allister Coetzee said on Wednesday that Vermeulen would be one of the key players who may be rested via rotation in 2013 to ensure that he is fit and ready for the business end of the competition.
The increased depth among the loose forwards, with regulars such as Siya Kolisi, Rynhardt Elstadt and Nizaam Carr joined this year by returning captain Schalk Burger, Lions recruit Michael Rhodes and the emergence of Don Armand, has armed the Cape side with considerable resources in the key loose trio positions. Of course, hooker Deon Fourie can also fill in there if required.
“It’s unfortunate about Schalk, but it is good to see Siya and Rynhardt back. And they are both fully fit, no niggles and nothing that holds them back. That’s especially important at loose forward, as you want to see them operate at 100 percent. I’m also happy to see that it is Duane’s second game, as it gives us a lot of continuity, which is what we are looking for,” Coetzee said.
“Rotation is important, which is why we have been trying to grow the squad – to have your best players at the back-end of the competition, and to have your strongest side to play in playoffs. I think, with the quality that we’ve got, I think we can use rotation effectively. You cannot just rotate also if don’t have the experience and the depth, and also class in your depth.
“But I’ve got no doubt that when Schalk comes back, we’ve got a good combination of loose forwards. A player like Siya can play six and seven, Rynhardt seven and four, Duane can even play four, seven and six for that matter. That’s the versatility we are looking for. You never win a competition with just a certain group of players – you’ve got to tap into your depth.”
Kolisi and Elstadt are back for Saturday’s warm-up against Boland at the Cape Town Stadium (2.45pm kickoff) after missing the Cheetahs match with minor niggles. They are joined by Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, who will lead the Stormers on Saturday in Burger’s absence, scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage, lock Andries Bekker and Fourie.
Bok prop Pat Cilliers will also make his first start for the Stormers following his move from the Lions, while Brok Harris, Nic Groom and Joe Pietersen are set to take the field for the first time this year off the bench.
“It’s important for Deon to get gametime, to get match-sharp. The same applies to Siya, Rynhardt, Andries ... all of them. I would like us to get our match fitness, as it’s part of the conditioning phase, as rugby match fitness is different to general fitness,” Coetzee said.
De Villiers left the field briefly after taking a knock to a shoulder yesterday, but the coach said that it was nothing serious and only a “stinger”, so he is expected to be fit for the Boland game.
With Elton Jantjies rejoining the Stormers squad on Sunday and Peter Grant still in Japan, Coetzee said that Louis Schreuder will be the back-up flyhalf to Kurt Coleman at the Cape Town Stadium.
TEAMS FOR CAPE TOWN STADIUM
Boland Cavaliers: 15 Garth April, 14 Brendon April, 13 Adi Jacobs, 12 Albert Trytsman, 11 Tythan Adams, 10 Ricardo Croy, 9 Ntando Kebe, 8 Zandré Jordaan, 7 Thor Halvorsen, 6 Franzel September, 5 Nolan Clark, 4 PJ van Zyl, 3 Francois Hanekom, 2 Chris Buckle, 1 Ashton Constant (capt). Bench: 16 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 17 Yagia Cook, 18 Rossouw Kruger, 19 Hanno Kitshoff, 20 Bradley Fortuin, 21 Junior Bester, 22 Dual Erasmus, 23 William van Wyk, 24 Llewellyn Adonis, 25 Cheswin Williams, 26 Cheslin Roberts, 27 Jonathan Francke.
Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jean de Villiers (capt), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Bench: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Brok Harris, 19 De Kock Steenkamp, 20 Don Armand, 21 Nizaam Carr, 22 Nic Groom, 23 Louis Schreuder, 24 Pat Howard, 25 Gerhard van den Heever, 26 Joe Pietersen.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan. Kickoff: 2.45pm. TV: Not televised. – Cape Times