Duane the real deal

MARK KEOHANE writes that Duane Vermeulen in the past fortnight has shown the form deserving of a Springbok incumbent.

Vermeulen led the Stormers intensity and aggression against the Chiefs and he was equally present against the Sharks a week earlier. He struggled for an impression against the Bulls, largely due to his tight five taking a beating.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has always rated Vermeulen the No 1 and said Vermeulen would have started in the opening Test against England in 2012 had he been fit.

Should Vermeulen maintain fitness for the international season he will definitely start and on historical discussion with Meyer it will be a choice of Pierre Spies or Ryan Kankowski to provide loose-forward impact off the bench.

Spies was good against the Stormers, went missing for large parts of the game against the Force and very good against the Blues. His best role from a national perspective could be as a super sub when the game has loosened. It would make his contribution no less to the Bok cause and with the game’s evolution of substitutes more and more the strength of the bench is the difference between the good and the very good sides.

Some players are better utilized in a starting capacity and others can be devastating when introduced against fatigued defences and when the game has opened up.

Spies and Francois Hougaard immediately come to mind as a duo who could give the Boks huge impact if introduced to make impact and not as starting options. Again it is a compliment to their strengths and not an indictment of weakness.

Vermeulen, so often the bridesmaid in terms of national selection, has consistently been among the form loose-forwards in Super Rugby, but since making his Test debut late last year there is a maturity and confidence that can only come with international exposure.

South Africa is blessed with quality loose-forwards, more so than any other country, if you consider what is playing domestically and abroad. It obviously is all about getting the combinations going, but the form of Siya Kolisi, Arno Botha, Lappies Labsuchagne, Jacques Engelbrecht, Luke Watson (in the opening 30), Heinrich Brussow (in his comeback 30) and Coetzee has been more than encouraging.

Then you’ve got Willem Alberts and Schalk Burger to come back form injury, as well as Keagan Daniel.

Overseas Francois Louw has been the form South African loose-forward. And there are so many others doing well in France.

But for me it starts with a presence at No 8 and the man currently in possession of the Bok No 8 jersey has that presence.