CAPE TOWN – Duane Vermeulen needs a breather, and confirmed on Saturday night after the Springboks lost 25-10 to England at Newlands that he will not be available for the Rugby Championship later this year.
The big No 8 has been a steadying influence on a new-era Bok side against a physical England outfit, and the former Stormers captain was valuable in imposing himself on the opposition and putting in a few big hits.
But having played a long French season in his swansong at Toulon, followed by three gruelling Tests against England, Vermeulen – who will turn 32 in July – requires a break from everything.
IOL Sport understands that Vermeulen just wants to get away from the game for a while and recharge his batteries as part of the plan to ensure he is in top shape for next year’s World Cup.
He is set to return to the field in the less demanding Top League in Japan, but his future after that is still up in the air – the Japanese competitions usually end in late February, so he may seek a short-term Super Rugby deal to be in peak condition ahead of the World Cup.
“It will be difficult not to be part of it (Rugby Championship), but we’ve got the plan and I’ve spoken to Rassie about it. I think there’s time in the coming weeks where we can work out the exact plan and what we want to do,” Vermeulen said at Newlands on Saturday night.
“But it’s great being back and being part of a young squad – guys who are excited to play. They love to play, they love to get together.
“It’s just great to pull this green jumper over your head again. So, I’m really happy to be back, and I hope to be part of the coming Tests. I know it’s not going to be in the Championship, but we’ll see down the road.
“But it’s a great team and we’ve got a great captain, and the guys just need to stick together. There’s a nice phase for us, building towards the World Cup, and if I can be a part of that, then I will be happy to give my 110 percent.”
Meanwhile, Bok coach Rassie Erasmus said the defeat to England was “very disappointing” as much of their shortcomings were down to issues he felt they could control and didn’t.
The South Africans got on to the wrong side of referee Glen Jackson’s whistle at the breakdowns in particular.
“It’s sad to say that we didn’t get up for this game because I really thought the way we trained this week… I will do some homework myself, and there must’ve been a few things I did wrong this week because we definitely didn’t pitch – I wouldn’t say we didn’t pitch for the game, but we didn’t pitch at that same level intensity-wise,” he said.
“We gave some stupid penalties away, which we normally don’t. I will do some homework myself there.
“We spoke about the breakdowns before the game and did a whole profile (on Jackson) – he’s a guy who gives by far the most penalties for tackler not releasing and sealing off. And we prepared for that, as he wants a nice, clean breakdown, and we spoke about that and we just didn’t adapt. I don’t think they were unfair penalties; he’s just like that at the breakdown.”
But one of the better Boks on the night was fullback Warrick Gelant, as well as centre Jesse Kriel. “Yes, I thought Warrick did some great things, and again, for Sbu and Aphiwe, they know now when they catch those up-and-unders from Cipriani in this weather, we have to work harder at those things.
“We learned a lot of bad things, but also a lot of good things that we can work on.”