Springboks: Duane Vermeulen ‘pumped’ for Test return against the All Blacks

·3-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Springboks great Duane Vermeulen says that he can’t wait to get back out on the field after returning to their starting line-up for the game against the All Blacks.

The 36-year-old has not played for the national team since the November series after missing the mid-year Tests with Wales.

He is one of five changes to the XV that overcame New Zealand in the Rugby Championship opener and Vermeulen admitted that the occasion in Mbombela made him yearn for another shot at the highest level.

“I would have loved to have played in Nelspruit, my hometown — the atmosphere, the anthem, the vibe, even the half-time entertainment with Jimmy Stonehouse (the Pumas coach sang Sweet Caroline) — gave me goosebumps and a strong desire to get on the field,” he told reporters.

Reminiscing about a famous Boks win

South Africa will once again go into the second Test as favourites and Vermeulen has been reminding himself of the last time they defeated the All Blacks in Johannesburg.

“This week I get my turn and I am pumped,” he said. “The last time we beat New Zealand at Ellis Park was eight years ago, that is a long time and we are relishing the opportunity to get out there and play in front of a fully packed stadium.

“I have seen some replays of that game (in 2014) on television lately and the emotions come flooding back. It was a very tough game and a reminder just how hard it is going to be on Saturday against a hurting All Blacks team.

“For the first time in their history they are at number five in the world ranking and that is just one thing that will push them to another level on Saturday.

“It hurts when you are down like that. It happens in rugby that you get some downs before you get ups again. It is like a heartbeat … it goes up and down and if you flat line you are dead.

“Obviously their heart is still beating and they will be ready for this game — we are going to have to be very good to withstand what they bring.”

Having not played for a long time, Vermeulen concedes that match fitness might be an issue but is confident in the quality of the squad should he come off early.

First match in two months

“I have not played for eight weeks plus the game is at altitude, which makes a difference, but we have a strong group of guys and we play with 23 not 15, so I will push myself and give it my best and see how far I can go and then we have the replacements to come on,” he added.

“Mentally there is no issue. You switch on automatically when you play international rugby. And then I have been part of the group, sitting with the coaches and getting a lot of info every day.

“I have been sitting with the players and going through the lineouts, the plays. So mentally, switching on is the easiest part for me.”

Meanwhile, the Springboks have been forced into a change from the squad that was announced on Tuesday, with Bongi Mbonambi ruled out through injury.

Mbonambi has sustained a knee issue and, as a precaution, will sit out this weekend’s encounter.

It means that Joseph Dweba starts at hooker and will earn his third Test cap, with Malcolm Marx remaining among the replacements.

South Africa (revised): 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 (c), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 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

READ MORE: 50 up for Frans Malherbe as Duane Vermeulen returns for New Zealand rematch

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