- Duane Vermeulen received deserved plaudits from director of rugby Jake White after leading the Bulls to a comprehensive 41-14 win over the Sharks.
- “When he’s on song everyone follows him,” White said about the Bulls skipper.
- The Bulls scored six tries in a dominant victory at Loftus that put them back among the Super Rugby Unlocked title contenders.
Man-of-the-match and Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen received deserved plaudits from director of rugby Jake White after leading the men from Pretoria to a comprehensive 41-14 win over the Sharks at Loftus on Saturday.
Vermeulen’s experience and physicality proved the turn-around difference for the hosts, who were under the cosh early on when the Sharks dominated the scrums.
But, as White revealed after the game, the World Cup-winning Bok No 8 kept the heads calm in the first quarter before the Bulls systematically dismantled the Sharks in a six-try romp.
“You’re not always going to get things to go the way you want in the beginning but the way they came back [was laudable],” said White about the tough first quarter.
“We adapted. I thought the way Duane captained to get everyone in together and basically talking through what we needed to get right and the way the coaches spoke at half-time was also pleasing for me to see.
“There was a calmness and an understanding about what we needed to get right. That comes with teams that stay together for a long time.
“When you see that with a relatively new team you get really excited about that. There’s a lot of learning taking place as well, which was pleasing.”
The 34-year-old was a key cog in Rassie Erasmus’ triumphant squad in Japan last year, and he and Bok head coach Jacques Nienaber would have been smiling watching Vermeulen back to his dominant best.
Vermeulen pilfered Sharks ball at the breakdown, working in beautiful concert with flankers Marco van Staden and Elrigh Louw, and pushed a number of the opposition carriers back with some telling hits.
It was clear that a lot of the Bulls’ struggles in Super Rugby earlier this year, where they won just one game before the coronavirus pandemic hit, were largely attributed to being without a player of Vermeulen’s presence.
But White’s Bulls have no such issues to contend with and will now be a force to reckon with for the rest of the Super Rugby Unlocked competition, and the ensuing Currie Cup, after that dominant performance against the Sharks.
“When Duane's on song everyone follows him,” White said.
“He’s got that sort of personality and that sort of aura in our team. He didn’t play after the Green versus Gold game (Springbok Showdown) and didn’t play in the Griquas game.
“But he’s now played two consecutive games and he’s played 80 minutes in both games, which means the more he plays and the more he plays with this team, and the more he’s on the field, the better for us.
“We saw it as well for the Springboks that when he’s on song it’s very good for us because every person in the team follows him.
“One of the things we might do is give him a chance [to rest] and give Arno Botha the No 8 berth and see whether or not those combinations work.
“There’s a long time now, not only left in the Super Rugby Unlocked competition but to the Currie Cup before we have a short break and then the PRO14 (PRO16) competition starts.
“It’s a work in progress for us. We are going to try many combinations.”