YOKOHAMA – South Africa’s wily number eight forward Duane Vermeulen is again looking to come up with something special when the Springboks take on Wales in a 2019 Rugby World Cup (RWC) semifinal at the International Stadium Yokohama on Sunday.
The last time South Africa beat Wales, Vermeulen dipped into his box of tricks and produced the moment of magic that saved the day.
With six minutes to go of the 2015 RWC quarterfinal, the big loose forward broke to the blindside from a scrum inside the Welsh 22 and, after keeping two defenders at bay, produced a stunning no-look backhand flip to a flying Fourie du Preez, who raced into the left-hand corner to score the winning try at Twickenham.
Four years later, the stakes are even higher. It is a semifinal and the Boks are staring down the Six Nations champions on the back of a four-match losing streak against coach Warren Gatland’s team.
"That was actually a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing," said the 33-year-old Vermeulen, who has 52 Test caps. "I don't know if I have anything lined up yet. We'll see during the week if I can try something different, try something new.
"I will definitely tell you it won't be a kick – as I'm not allowed to kick. That will be out of the question.”
The former Stormers and Toulon stalwart, who will rejoin Kubota Spears in the Japan Top League after the World Cup, knows that the Springboks have to brush up on their attack and discipline.
He admitted they felt the pressure in defence when prop Tendai Mtawarira was yellow-carded in the quarterfinal against Japan, and they wasted a number of scoring chances.
But Vermeulen feels that, while opportunities will be fewer in the semifinal, the Boks are "not robots”.
"As long as it's not a trend that keeps going throughout the game, and as long as it's not a system error, then in a way we are OK with that," he said.
Revenge will be on South Africa's minds, though, and they may have stumbled upon a winning recipe after watching Wales' win over France on Sunday.
"If you look at their game against France, the French have a big pack, and once you get into their territory, France got on to the front foot, and they could score tries," said Vermeulen, one of the tough men of South African rugby.
"It's not a team you can't score against, but you have to be clinical in what you want to do and how you want to approach that.
"There is always going to be pressure, in every single game. It's neutral ground – they are playing away from home, we are playing away from home.
"So, it's not like the past weekend, where it felt like the whole world was against us as a team, because everyone was hoping Japan would win. It's a 50-50 game. "