Cape Town - Duane Vermeulen has been tipped for a Springbok call-up to face Australia in Perth next week, but Western Province coach Allister Coetzee believes such a move would be premature.
“Duane is probably a game or two away from getting back to his best,” Coetzee told reporters on Monday.
“I know he wants to give his all when he is called up, but Duane knows he has to play his way back to match fitness. Right now he’s probably good for a 10-minute performance at Test level.”
Vermeulen made his return from a long-term knee injury against Griquas 10 days ago, and progressed from a 40-minute outing in Kimberley to a 65-minute spell against the Lions.
“Duane is improving,” added the WP coach. “He’s improving with his defence, he’s contesting hard on the ground and he was good at lineout time. He’s doing a lot of things right to get back to his best.”
Coetzee’s desire for Vermeulen’s Bok call-up to be delayed until Province find their feet became more urgent when adamantine loose forward Siya Kolisi was sidelined for the remainder of the season after breaking his thumb at Ellis Park.
“The sad news is obviously Siya, he’s undergoing an operation on his right hand. Injury is never a pleasant thing, especially for someone like Siya, who is almost a senior player in our setup, but the thumb operation will give him time to fix his shoulder too.
“Siya was going to have a shoulder operation after the season, which will keep him out for three-and-a-half months, and the silver-lining is that he will be ready for the Stormers’ pre-season.”
Flanker Tyrone Holmes injured his shoulder and has been ruled out for “up to 10 days” while injured No 8 Nick Koster’s knee injury is not where it should be and appears to be mending much slower than expected, while fullback Joe Pietersen (wrist) was sent to a specialist yesterday for an assessment of his availability.
The coach did take some comfort from the news that enforcer forward Rynhardt Elstadt (groin), prop Deon Carstens (broken nose) and flyhalf Gary van Aswegen (match fitness) have all been cleared to face the Blue Bulls at Newlands on Saturday.
Province have lost two of three matches this season, including the season-opener at Newlands, and Coetzee is aware of mounting pressure to get back to winning ways.
“We’re a team that hasn’t often lost two in a row,” he said. “It’s very important for us to win this weekend, it’s a home game and we want to stay in the race.”