British & Irish Lions

Duane's Bok squad return doesn't translate into fairy tale spot against Lions

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Duane Vermeulen. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
Duane Vermeulen. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
  • Duane Vermeulen's much publicised return to the Springbok squad ultimately didn't translate into a last-gasp spot in the deciding Test against the Lions.
  • Instead, Bok management once again proved that there's a lot more to selection than just pedigree and, possibly, sentiment.
  • There's still no clarity on how long Pieter-Steph du Toit will be on the sidelines.

Duane Vermeulen's much trumpeted return to the Springbok squad ultimately didn't translate into a spot in the match squad for Saturday's third and decisive Test against the British & Irish Lions in Cape Town.

The 35-year-old stalwart raised hopes of a remarkable recovery from an ankle injury sustained late in the Bulls' Rainbow Cup campaign when he joined up last weekend, but, while he is in the return-to-play phase of his comeback, the time-frame simply proved too tight.

After all, there's a Rugby Championship to keep in mind too.

"It's been a process getting him back here," Jacques Nienaber, the Springbok head coach, said on Tuesday.

"The first phase was his return-to-training and I must say the Bulls, who were in charge of his rehab, did a wonderful job. He's now in the phase of playing again. 

"We just needed to get him back in the mix and he's started working with us."

However - in a development that vividly illustrates yet again that Bok selection isn't just about an experienced player's pedigree - there were various factors that prevented Vermeulen from just slotting in again.

"He was part of our training session on Monday, but we've always maintained that we won't select a player if he's not ready," said Nienaber.

"Obviously, Duane needs to be ready in other areas. He needs to be confident, he has to be up to speed about certain things we've changed to our game-plan and structures since he's been out. 

"He also has to be full-on medically and conditioning fit. We've also had to keep in mind the Rugby Championship and strict Covid-19 protocols make it difficult to get players in."

As one workhorse gets back into the Green-and-Gold frame, another once again has an injury cloud hanging over him.

Nienaber admitted that there's no clarity yet on Pieter-Steph du Toit's arm injury.

The 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year will see another specialist later this week.

"It's massive losing him. He's so accustomed to the role he plays," said the Bok mentor.

"But Franco Mostert has covered there for us a lot recently. Even if he starts at lock, we expect of him to train as if he'll play both positions in the build-up to a game. I'm really confident in him. 

"You all saw last week that we had no issues moving him to blindside flank."

Kick-off on Saturday is at 18:00.

Teams:

Springboks

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Marco van Staden, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Damian Willemse

British & Irish Lions

15 Liam Williams, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Ali Price, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones

Substitutes: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Connor Murray, 22 Finn Russell, 23 Elliot Daly

  
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