Duane’s return good news for Boks
There was good news for Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer as much as there was for Allister Coetzee when DHL Western Province began their preparations for the Absa Currie Cup season with a training session at the High Performance Centre in Bellville on Monday.
A few of the players missed by the Stormers during the Super Rugby season because of injury were back in training, the most significant of the returnees being big No 8 Duane Vermeulen.
The Springbok took a full part in the on-field session and doesn’t look to be carrying any ill effects of the knee injury that has ruled him out of rugby since May.
“Duane is looking very comfortable and I am sure he will be ready to play quite soon. The only problem for us (WP) is that I am sure he will be called up to the Springbok squad and asked to continue at international level where he left off last year,” said WP coach Coetzee.
Province see their first action of the domestic competition when they host the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Newlands on 10 August.
As that match is just a week before the start of the Castle Rugby Championship, with the Boks due to kick off against Argentina as part of a double header featuring national soccer team Bafana Bafana on 17 August, Coetzee is not sure whether Vermeulen would be available to play.
“It depends on when the squad for the Rugby Championship is announced. I would imagine that the 30-man national squad will be called together for a camp before the start of the Championship, so we are not assuming that our Boks will be available for the opening round of Currie Cup. We have two games before the Championship starts as we play the Cheetahs at Newlands the night before the Argentina game.”
It would be a major surprise if Meyer did not select Vermeulen straight into squad as the No 8 was one of the revelations of the last international season, with his partnership with Francois Louw towards the end of the last Rugby Championship and during the overseas tour in playing to the ball having a massive positive impact on the way the Boks were able to play.
And with Pierre Spies, who started at No 8 in the matches played in the Castle Incoming Tour Series, out for the rest of the year, Vermeulen’s return to fitness is a timely one for the national coach.
While he will probably have to do without Vermeulen, Coetzee should have been pleased to see that probable loss off-set by the return to the playing field on Monday of Michael Rhodes.
The former Lions and Sharks player was outstanding in the few matches he played for the Stormers during an injury plagued Super Rugby season and he can be used either as a blindside flank or a lock.
With Eben Etzebeth set to be playing in the Rugby Championship, and Rynhardt Elstadt settled at No 7, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Rhodes play at least some of the season as a second row forward.