Currie Cup final battles: Duane Vermeulen vs Sikhumbuzo Notshe
THERE are some intriguing personal showdowns that could swing Saturday’s Currie Cup final. Today we focus on Duane Vermeulen (Bulls) v Sikhumbuzo Nothse (Sharks).
While a number of the 2019 World Cup-winning Springboks haven’t quite hit their straps since that stunning victory, Duane Vermeulen has been one of the exceptions.
The big No 8 has been an inspirational figure as the Bulls captain. During some tough times on the pitch, the former Stormers stalwart has dished out some much-needed words – but as we all know, Vermeulen leads by his actions.
There was another example of that in the semi-final against the Lions, when he knocked over Jaco Visagie in a stampeding run that would’ve had the Loftus Versfeld crowd roaring if they had been present.
Vermeulen is also not scared to make decisive leadership calls, as he did against the Lions when he opted for a penalty to be kicked into touch instead of asking Morné Steyn to have a shot at goal, with the scores level at 14-14 in the 55th minute.
The move paid off handsomely, as Johan Grobbelaar scored from a maul.
In Saturday’s Currie Cup final, Sharks No 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe will look to make a big impact against his former Stormers teammate, and has the quick feet to unlock the Bulls defence.
But first, he will have to get past Vermeulen – and to paraphrase a TV ad from the past, can he tackle Duane Vermeulen?
Vermeulen also helps to organise the Bulls line-out with Ruan Nortjé, and is a solid option at the back of the set-piece, as well as a breakdown threat.
He will be lining up those Sharks ball-carriers around the fringes too.
When the Sharks were flourishing in Super Rugby at the beginning of 2020, probably their prime stand-out player was Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who was enjoying a spectacular new lease on life after moving on from the Stormers.
In the Cape, he had lived under a fair cloud of criticism that he did not have enough of a physical edge to his game.
He has admitted this was a massive focus with the Sharks coaches pre-season and last March this side of his game was markedly impressive.
He entered lockdown in the form of his life but then battled to rediscover it when rugby resumed, mostly because he first picked up a hamstring injury and then not long after he came back, he had to go into a fortnight of Covid-19 isolation.
But in December and January the sparkle returned to his game and in the Sharks’ last match before the semi-final against Western Province — against Griquas — he was sensational, and he also made a telling contribution in the scrappy win at Newlands last week.
While Notshe has upped his game in the physical stakes he is never going to be a Duane Vermeulen in that regard, but that is not why the Sharks bought him.
Notshe’s primary strength is his blistering pace and skills of a centre that makes him the classic, linking No 8. Coach Sean Everitt has said they head-hunted him for his ability to be that link between forwards and backs, especially on the counter-attack, which is the foundation of the Sharks’ game.