JOHANNESBURG - Springbok hard man Duane Vermeulen believes that the new faces in the Springbok team help bring the element of surprise in the way the Springboks play ahead of the first Test against England at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Vermeulen says their focus in the build-up to the series against England and particularly the opening Test in Johannesburg has been on implementing the new game-plan from a revamped and new Springbok coaching staff under Rassie Erasmus.
At the same time, Vermeulen is adamant that a new look Springbok side could play differently from the predictable and archaic style of rugby that the team has been accustomed to in recent years.
“It’s a new set-up, new coaching style and everything is new. They don’t know what we can bring to the table. But we will see what will happen on Saturday. We need to prepare in our own way and how we want to play and execute. There is no focus on England, the main focus is on us. They might think there is the old South African style but you might be surprised by the way we will play,” said Vermeulen on Tuesday.
And the veteran Vermeulen is making a conscious decision to get to know his new teammates intimately so as to avoid any surprises once they step onto the field of play.
“I’ve watched them play, some of them, but no not really. There are a lot of youngsters and some exciting new players. You have to spend a little more time with them every day you try to sit with a different guy and try to speak to him and see what makes him tick on and off the field. Just to get a little more about him so when you are on the field with him you know what he represents and where he comes from. I’ll take it day by day but it’s nice to see a young bunch of players,” Vermeulen added.
The 31-year-old Vermeulen also believes that the youngsters in the team have a lot to offer Springbok rugby with their individual exploits and has been hands on in helping mentor the younger players towards contributing positively for the team.
“Ja a little bit (mentoring younger players). But when you play for the Boks you are here because you have something special to offer. I think there are a lot of players that have that something special, it’s just focussing that in the right direction that the whole team wants to get it. Maybe helping here and there on the field and the way of thinking and how we want to play. You will help where you can,” Vermeulen said.
Vermeulen, though, is under no illusion on how difficult it will be for the Springboks to find cohesion with so many new faces and in the short space of time they have been together but is optimistic that they will do the job at hand.
“When guys get together for the new season there will always be new calls and everything. We are used to new calls and you have to learn it quickly because you don’t have enough time. For us everyone getting together we only had two days last week to prepare for this England Test. You are a little bit limited in time to prepare for well enough but we are definitely going to do our best to know everything and to be a hundred percent in our execution, that’s the main thing we want to strive for. Hopefully we can do that and make each other proud. It’s being thrown into a pressure cooker and you got to do your job, it is going to be tough.”