DURBAN - Duane Vermeulen’s waterboy duties during the Springboks’ recent victories over Argentina have got him ’pumped’ to get back on the field for South Africa’s Rugby Championship fixtures against Australia and New Zealand.
Vermeulen suffered a serious ankle injury playing for the Bulls in June, and it is only now that he is with the Boks in Brisbane that he is at last ready to pull on the No 8 jersey.
And he is so revved up that he says he has no plans of retiring any time soon, and that the 2023 World Cup is not an impossibility.
Speaking from the Boks’ base near Brisbane, where they are in quarantine ahead of their match against the Wallabies next Sunday, the 35-year-old said he had overcome the disappointment of missing out on playing against the British & Irish Lions.
“It was a very tough one as playing them was one last tick on my bucket list that I wanted,” Vermeulen said.
“But at least I was with the squad for the last Test, and that gave me a taste of how tough the series was. And then the transition from waterboy (to being fit to play) has got me pumped to get on the field and play my part.”
Vermeulen said that his ankle injury was more severe than anyone – including himself – realised.
“I had hoped to make the first Test against the Lions, I gave it my all, but I could feel I was not ready, and I told Jacques (Nienaber, Bok coach) I would drop the guys if I tried to play,” Vermeulen said.
“It was the right decision. I had to heal completely to be fully ready for the Rugby Championship.
“It was very difficult to sit on the side but when I started running water I felt more involved. You can get into the coach’s head and be an extra voice. You can give the guys some advice from what you have seen from the outside. It was a nice way to get closer to the action.”
Vermeulen said he also spent time mentoring his replacement, Jasper Wiese.
“I played one game against Jasper when he was with the Cheetahs and he gave me a tough time, and then he went abroad and has played exceptionally well for Leicester, and he fully deserved to be called up to the Boks,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nienaber said yesterday that prop Thomas du Toit had returned to South Africa for a family bereavement, while lock RG Snyman was unable to travel to Australia due to “personal reasons”.