'Switched on' Duane admits 'cold' Bok return will be challenge: 'I'll give it all for 40 mins'

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  • Duane Vermeulen admits his biggest challenge upon his latest Springbok return will be his body, not his mind.
  • Included for the weekend's Test against the All Blacks, the veteran No 8 plans to give his all for "40 to 50 minutes".
  • Bok coach Jacques Nienaber says he had little qualms including the stalwart despite a 8-week hiatus from knee surgery.


Duane Vermeulen's latest return to international rugby will very much be a case of matter over mind, to flip the hackneyed phrase.

The Springboks on Tuesday wasted little time including the evergreen 36-year-old veteran in the starting line-up for this weekend's Rugby Championship meeting with the All Blacks at Ellis Park following his rehabilitation from knee surgery at the conclusion of Ulster's URC campaign.

A visibly relaxed Vermeulen quickly calmed any fears about his mental state going into the match, admitting that the only real reservations - if there are any - should be about his conditioning.

"Physically, you just have to wait and see. It's very much a 50-50 thing. I haven’t played for the past 8 weeks," he said.

"That’s the only big thing really and it's going to be at altitude too. But we've got a really strong group of players, you don't play just alongside 15 guys, it's 23.

"So I'm just going to give my best and see how far I can push myself and then we have replacements to take over. It's probably interesting coming back at altitude, it should be a difficult challenge in a good way. We've worked hard and well over the past few weeks and I just want to give back. I'll give it all, even if it’s just 40 to 50 minutes."

READ | Lood de Jager expecting All Black backlash at Ellis Park: 'They'll come with everything they have'

A 61-Test exponent, Vermeulen has been around the block long enough to gleefully admit that his psychological preparation for an occasion of this calibre is actually the easy part.

"Mentally, you're always switched on. It's international rugby, you have to be. You sit with the coaches and you receive a lot of info to work through – reviewing line-outs and plays," he said.

"Being mentally switched on it probably the easiest part for me. You’ve been in the game for a number of years."

It's an attitude Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has clearly responded in kind towards.

"If you've played as many Test matches as Duane has, I don't think you really can prepare for a game against the All Blacks any differently than you've already have with that amount of experience," he said.

"And that's what Duane brings. It's nice to have him back."

Springboks:

15 Damian Willemse, 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Willie le Roux 

Vermeulen's selection means that Jasper Wiese, whom many believe produced his best performance at international level last week in Nelspruit, is back doing Bomb Squad duty.

Yet, if anything, Vermeulen believes that role is far more taxing than his.

"Would I prefer starting or being a Bomb Squad member? Difficult question," he said with a chuckle.

"Probably a starter. The last thing we want is me coming on too early and running out of steam! But on a serious notes, the replacements are true impact players. 

"Like the phrase says, they really make an impact."   

Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:05.  

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