Japser Wiese has shown he is the right man to fill the hefty boots of Duane Vermuelen
Share this article:
DURBAN - AMONG the many things that the Springbok brains trust of Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus have got right is their choice of player to fill the hefty boots of injured talisman Duane Vermeulen.
For many observers, Jasper Wiese came out of nowhere to be given the tough task of taking over from a great Springbok, and let’s be honest, the 25-year-old from Upington looked bemused at being thrust into the spotlight of the series against the British & Irish Lions.
Wiese bumbled and fumbled and gave away penalties when he started at No 8 in the second Test – Kwagga Smith had been an unsuccessful pick in the first Test – but Nienaber stuck with him and he has grown incrementally better with each outing until coming of age with a powerful performance against Argentina at the weekend.
The Bok coaches had watched the former Cheetah blaze a trail for Leicester in the English Premiership, where he broke records for ball carries and metres made, and they believed he would come good when he had shaken off the stage fright.
At 1.9m and 110kg, he is a chunky fellow and is the exact same height as Vermeulen and 7kg lighter, not that weight is an issue and the 35-year-old Vermeulen has grown more portly with age.
Vermeulen rejoined the Bok squad three weeks ago as his rehabilitation from a horrible ankle injury nears completion, and he has been doing a fine job mentoring his understudy.
Soon, Nienaber will have to choose between the two.
“It’s a long season, we’re now only a third of the way through the Tests we’re going to play this year. Duane will fulfill a role for us, and Jasper is currently fulfilling a role for us,” Nienaber said after his team had beaten the Pumas 32-12.
“We will have to think outside of the box in terms of how we keep our players fresh; but our strategic goals won’t ever change. We play for our country so the first strategic goal is to win. Our second one is to build depth in our squad.”
Nienaber said that goal of growing the squad is not just short term as already there is an eye on the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
“Of course we want to defend our Rugby Championship, but we spoke in the team meeting before the Argentina game that this is now our chance to start building towards 2023.
“So first priority to is to defend our title, but within that we are looking to build strategically towards the World Cup. It’s important to remember that it’s a balancing act between those two objectives.”
The Boks play the Pumas again this weekend, once more at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, and then travel to Australia for two consecutive matches against the Wallabies.
Next are two matches against the All Blacks, once scheduled for Dunedin and the other for Auckland, but there is growing speculation that these matches will be moved to Perth.