Duane Vermeulen expects direct confrontation from a ’tough’ Pumas side
Cape Town - Having been born and bred in Mbombela (previously Nelspruit), Daniel Johannes – or Duane – Vermeulen chuckled when he was asked this week about facing yet another of his former teams.
“Now you are digging very deep into the past,” the Springbok No 8 said about the Bulls’ Super Rugby Unlocked finale against the Pumas at Loftus Versfeld this afternoon (2pm kick-off).
Sporting a bit of a mullet hairstyle at the time, the teenaged Vermeulen first made his name as a blindside flank for the Pumas in 2005, until he was recruited by Rassie Erasmus at the Cheetahs two years later.
Now in his 16th year of professional rugby, the 34-year-old has an exceptional CV: Pumas, Cheetahs, Stormers/Western Province, Toulon, Kubota Spears and the Bulls – and not forgetting his 54 Test caps for the Springboks, which includes being a Rugby World Cup champion.
He is on the brink of more silverware, with today’s Pumas game an opportunity for the Bulls to finish off the tournament in style. But having grown up in Mpumalanga, Vermeulen knows it won’t just be an easy stroll.
“They are playing bloody good rugby, and we will get the same thing on Saturday. I don’t think coach Jimmy (Stonehouse) will change too much – there may be a few trick-plays or special stuff in the forwards,” he said.
“They are tough guys who want to take you on directly. They will be strong upfront and a big pack of forwards, and they are a difficult team to play. I don’t remember when last I played against the Pumas, so it’s a good challenge for me. It’s always nice for a so-called smaller union to play against a big one, in order to prove a point.”
Despite the Bulls producing a couple of terrific displays against the Sharks and Stormers, the captain believes that they still improve greatly. There is also still a Currie Cup to be won, and the Pretoria outfit will still be on top of the log going into next week’s NorthSouth derby against Western Province as the points are carried over from the Unlocked tournament.
So, Vermeulen is keen to see his team pushing themselves further, starting against the Pumas. “We are still playing half-and-half, and not putting a full 80 together. It’s something we have spoken about in the group, and the most important thing is to work on our consistency,” he said.
“We set ourselves the bar, and where we are and where we want to be. Guys lifted their individual levels as well, and it does take time before everything gels. We are not yet there, but we are on our way there.
“I might lift a trophy, and it’s a nice thing as the Bulls last won anything 10 years ago. Looking forward, it’s about getting the right group together, and that’s what coach Jake (White) has done well. From there, we have to get the fundamentals right.
“This weekend, we can close the one chapter, but there are many other chapters that are ahead, and our book is not yet finished. Next week, we go straight into another competition, so it’s not something you can exactly celebrate.”
15 David Kriel 14 Travis Ismaiel 13 Stedman Gans 12 Cornal Hendricks 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse 10 Morné Steyn 9 Ivan van Zyl 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain) 7 Arno Botha 6 Marco van Staden 5 Walt Steenkamp 4 Ruan Nortje 3 Trevor Nyakane 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Bench: 16 Joe van Zyl 17 Gerhard Steenekamp 18 Marcel van der Merwe 19 Sintu Manjezi 20 Nizaam Carr 21 Embrose Papier 22 Chris Smith 23 Marco Jansen van Vuuren.
15 Devon Williams 14 Luther Obi 13 Erich Cronje 12 Wayne van der Bank 11 Etienne Taljaard 10 Theo Boshoff 9 Chriswill September 8 Willie Engelbrecht 7 Phumzile Maqondwana 6 Francois Kleinhans 5 Pieter Jansen van Vuren (captain) 4 Darrien Landsburg 3 Ruan Kramer 2 HP van Schoor 1 Morgan Naude.
Bench: 16 Marko Janse van Rensburg 17 Ig Prinsloo 18 Brandon Valentyn 19 Daniel Maartens 20 Ginter Smuts 21 Ali Mgijima 22 Tapiwa Mafura 23 Liam Hendricks.