British & Irish Lions

Jake believes Duane's Lions dream is not over: 'Mentally tough guys recover quicker'

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Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen during the Currie Cup clash against the Sharks at Kings Park in Durban on 12 December 2020.
Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen during the Currie Cup clash against the Sharks at Kings Park in Durban on 12 December 2020.
Darren Stewart/Gallo Images
  • Jake White has given the Springbok fraternity the hope that Duane Vermeulen might yet play against the British & Irish Lions.
  • The Bulls mentor says the nature of his ankle injury means the influential No 8 could be back in time because he's so mentally tough.
  • White also understands why Marcell Coetzee, his new captain, hasn't been called up to the national squad yet.

Jake White has given Springbok fans hope that Duane Vermeulen might yet have a role to play in the series against the British & Irish Lions.

The 34-year-old stalwart underwent surgery on Wednesday to repair ankle ligament damage, an injury that the national coaching staff say could take anywhere between "five to 16 weeks" to heal.

But his franchise coach believes the imposing No 8 is so mentally tough that his recovery could be speedy.

"I don't think all is lost by any stretch of the imagination," White said on Thursday, ahead of the Bulls' Rainbow Cup "play-off" against the Sharks in Durban this weekend.

"I know how these injuries go. Jesse Kriel told everyone this week how he recovered from a similar injury in double quick time before the World Cup in 2019. And I've also been chatting to our medical staff and it seems a lot of players have had similar surgeries and are back within seven weeks.

"If you work out the sums, Duane might not be 100% ready for the first Test on July 24, but he could play in the last two matches. All is not lost. It would be great if he could play all three."

Teams:

Sharks

15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Anthony Volmink, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Makazole Mapimi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 JJ van der Mescht, 3 Khutha Mchunu, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Khwezi Mona

Substitutes: TBA

Bulls

15 David Kriel, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 7 Ruan Nortje, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Janko Swanepoel, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp

Substitutes: 16 Schalk Erasmus, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Muller Uys, 21 Keagan Johannes, 22 Clinton Swart, 23 Gio Aplon

White already had a chat with his influential skipper and was once again taken by his positivity.

"He's so positive. Mentally, he's an unbelievably tough man," said the Bulls' director of rugby.

"Who knows, players of his character recover much quicker than others. It was the same with a guy like Schalk Burger. I'm very confident Duane will feature."

In fact, in a series of this magnitude, Vermeulen might not even need to play a large role in helping the Boks complete their objective of clinching the series.

Sometimes, it's small contributions that count.

"Imagine the series is deadlocked at one-all, we need to win it and Duane scores the match-winning try," said White.

"That would also be a close to perfect script, similar to him winning the Man of the Match award in the World Cup final. Who knows? It could happen."

Meanwhile, White has given his support to the Springboks' plan of not (yet) calling up Marcell Coetzee as Vermeulen's potential replacement.

"Rassie and co's explanation makes perfect sense," he said.

"There's more than enough cover in the national squad at the moment. Marcell is a great player and his time will come. It's a long international season ahead. 

"And he's just eager to perform for the Bulls at the moment."

Kick-off in Durban is at 18:15 on Saturday.   

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