Boks trying not to be bothered by Rugby Championship uncertainty, says Duane

Elton Jantjies and Duane Vermeulen during the virtual media conference with Four Players on September 29, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
Elton Jantjies and Duane Vermeulen during the virtual media conference with Four Players on September 29, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
  • Duane Vermeulen says the national players aren't thinking too much about whether they'll need to pack their bags for the Rugby Championship.
  • The Springboks' participation isn't confirmed yet but would represent a significant challenge in terms of match fitness.
  • The experienced eighthman doesn't believe SA's tag as world champions would place them under further strain should they have to participate in Australia.

Duane Vermeulen has reiterated that national players aren't pre-occupied with thoughts about whether they'll have to participate in the Rugby Championship.

The imposing No 8, in Cape Town for this week's Springbok Showdown at Newlands, even noted that it felt as if outside parties like the media know more about the status of South Africa's participation than the players themselves.

Nonetheless, Vermeulen has also accepted that the Boks would have to accept "difficult circumstances" if they are required to fly to Australia to defend their title.

"For our side as players, you've got to be adaptable when you get the opportunity to play," the 34-year-old stalwart said on Tuesday.

"Everyone is just getting used to (the overall challenges of Covid-19). We still don't know what's going to happen, we can only control so much, only the now. And the most important thing now is how best you can prepare your body to be ready once the competition starts."

While SA Rugby awaits for an indication on whether government will give clearance on international travel for the Boks, conditioning and players welfare considerations also remain key.

Rassie Erasmus, the national director of rugby, on Monday said that the players would need between 400 and 500 minutes of game-time at least to be able to physically front up to the All Blacks and Wallabies, who all come off full domestic campaigns.

"The most important thing that we're focusing on - and that's already been cleared - is the Currie Cup. Most of the guys are just focusing on that and not thinking too far ahead," said Vermeulen.

"We would be at a bit of a disadvantage when we go into a Rugby Championship. Our opponents have been playing for more than ten weeks. There are some clever guys behind the scenes who'll have to look at the way forward."

Elton Jantjies, another senior member of the group, agrees.

"That's up to the coaches to decide (if the Bok will go to Australia). They're obviously preparing for whether we're going or not," said the influential Lions captain.

"What's important is this week, where new and old faces get together in the same environment. The Super Rugby/Currie Cup competition is our priority and if the Rugby Champs is confirmed, I'm pretty sure the coaches and the players will be prepared."

One particularly thorny if somewhat underestimated thing that might weigh on the Boks' minds is how the gains made last year through winning both the World Cup and Rugby Championship could be eroded.

"We won those titles and obviously it would be something that's hanging over our heads," said Vermeulen.

"Whenever you go into an international competition, there are spots up for grabs, you can move up and down on those world rankings. It's a difficult thing. It's fantastic to be No 1 in the world but it's probably not something we're focusing on. We've just got out of lockdown and started playing again.

"For now its just about continuity and getting up to scratch again." 

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