Vermeulen set to start at No 7 for Boks

Duane Vermeulen (Gallo)
Duane Vermeulen (Gallo)

Cape Town - Duane Vermeulen could find himself in the No 7 shirt for the first time in his Springbok career in Saturday's Twickenham Test against England.

Vermeulen is back in the Bok mix having missed the entire Rugby Championship while on club duty in Japan, and coach Rassie Erasmus is expected to rush him straight back into the starting line-up against Eddie Jones' men. 

That return might not come in his specialist No 8 role, though. 

Sport24 understands that Erasmus is going to back Vermeulen as a ball-carrying No 7 on Saturday. 

The 32-year-old is expected to start in the loose trio alongside captain Siya Kolisi and No 8 Warren Whiteley. 

Vermeulen has started each of his 42 Tests to date at No 8, so a move to the side of the scrum would be new territory for him on the international stage. 

Whiteley has also been training at No 7 this week, and Erasmus may surprise by giving him the No 7 jersey and keeping Vermeulen at 8. 

Either way, it would be the first time that Vermeulen and Whiteley have started a Test together. 

With Franco Mostert unavailable and JD Schickerling uncapped, Erasmus is expected to shift Pieter-Steph du Toit back to the second row from flank to partner Eben Etzebeth

RG Snyman is seen as a specialist No 4 by Erasmus, and he will be the lock cover off the bench alongside another returnee from injury, Lood de Jager

Siya Kolisi can play at No 7 while Sikhumbuzo Notshe also gives Erasmus some loose forward depth, but playing Vermeulen or Whiteley at blindside would give the Bok back-row an injection of experience. 

There has been much debate over the past couple of years surrounding Vermeulen and Whiteley in the Bok side.

The ability of the two players has never been questioned, but they offer very different qualities at No 8. 

Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:00 (SA time). 

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