PRETORIA – The door is wide open for Siya Kolisi, Oupa Mohoje and Jean-Luc du Preez to stake their claim for the vacant Springbok No 7 jersey after hard man Duane Vermeulen was ruled out of the three Test Incoming series against France.
Vermeulen jetted into the country on Tuesday after featuring for his French club Toloun in the Top 14 final on Sunday where he suffered a shoulder injury.
Vermeulen’s withdrawal from the national team won’t disrupt much of coach Allister Coetzee’s plans ahead of the opening Test at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday as he was in all probability going to sit the game out but it will have an impact on the team for the remainder of the series.
At the same time, Coetzee will now have to play musical chairs with his loose forward combination with Kolisi or Mohoje probably the frontrunners in being named in the starting line-up to partner captain and eighthman Warren Whiteley and probably Jaco Kriel in the loose trio.
Kolisi, who has played in Super Rugby at No 7, could have moved to openside flank with Vermeulen’s presence but he can now be retained at blindside flank.
Coetzee will be faced with a selection dilemma with Mohoje having played at blindside flank for the national team for the better part of last season and also providing a line-out option over and above his ball carrying and defensive abilities.
Then there is the option of Du Preez, who was a late inclusion into the Test side from the SA ‘A’ squad last weekend, who has excelled for the Sharks at blindside flank.
Vermeulen’s loss will be a big blow to Coetzee’s plans especially with his experience playing in France but it opens the door to more players to compete for places in the team and gives Coetzee more options with the Rugby Championship and ultimately the Rugby World Cup looming.
Duane Vermeulen watching the Springbok training session at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Tuesday afternoon. pic.twitter.com/qQMtuuN9Y1