Duane Vermeulen likely to return for South Africa in third Lions Test

Springbok coaching team happy with officiating in second Test match on Saturday

Duane Vermeulen will likely return to action for South Africa in the third Test against the Lions. Photo: Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

Duane Vermeulen will likely return to action for South Africa in the third Test against the Lions. Photo: Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

 

As has been speculated for several weeks, Duane Vermeulen appears likely to play at least some part in next Saturday’s series decider between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions after the World Cup-winning number 8 returned to full training with the Springboks on Monday.

The 54-times capped, 35-year-old Vermeulen has been sidelined with an ankle injury which he sustained in the Bulls’ Rainbow Cup game against the Stormers, undergoing surgery only seven weeks ago.

“It’s fantastic to have a guy like Duane in the group,” said forwards coach Deon Davids. “He will join the training session today and was already in our review meetings this morning, so hopefully we will have more information on his position tomorrow.”

Against that, director of rugby-cum-water carrier Rassie Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber appear to have significant injury concerns over their flanker and 2019 World Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk.

A crestfallen Du Toit left the field shaking his head and clutching his shoulder in the 21st minute last Saturday after being elevated and dumped onto the ground by the Lions winger Duhan van der Merwe. De Klerk appeared to suffer a hip injury when box kicking and was immediately replaced by Herschel Jantjies in the 73rd minute.

His injury didn’t look as bad but Nienaber’s decision to add the uncapped Sharks scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse to their squad on Sunday to provide additional cover at 9 suggests they are concerned about de Klerk. Nienaber is due to name the Springboks’ matchday squad on Tuesday.

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“We are in the 48-hour protocol of assessing all injuries. The medical staff are working closely with the coaching group and we’ll make an announcement on that tomorrow,” said Davids.

Meanwhile, it transpires that the Springboks have undergone a road to Damascus like conversion in trusting and abiding by the decisions of the match officials and World Rugby, in light of their 27-9 win in last Saturday’s second Test.

This was in stark contrast to the 62-minute long video critique of the same officials and the same governing body last week by Erasmus.

Their new-found trust was probably helped not only by their victory, but by the decision of last Saturday’s match commissioner Scott Newland of Australia not to cite any of their players, specifically Cheslin Kolbe for taking out Conor Murray in the air or de Klerk for a high hit on the Lions’ scrumhalf.

Remarkably only Kyle Sinckler, who will face a disciplinary hearing by video link on Tuesday, was cited for allegedly biting Franco Mostert after Saturday’s ill-tempered affair.

“We’re quite satisfied that the process has been followed,” said Davids, maintaining a straight face. “Obviously we trust the processes of World Rugby and then whatever decision they take, we trust the processes and we will abide to that going forward.”

Discussing how they sought to communicate better with the officials, Davids added: “Whatever happens in the game there’s a thorough process that always goes with that. In saying that I think that is the same this week and trust in the decisions that will be made, and whatever calls have been made in this game will be dealt in the right spirit and we will have the right outcomes.”

Asked if there was more ‘parity’ in the communications with the officials last Saturday and if so was that as a direct result of what Erasmus did last week, Davids said: “I can’t comment on whether that was a direct result, all I can say I think we are quite happy with the way in which certain areas of the game were refereed this week.

“I think there was good communication between the referee and the captains throughout the game and at the end of the game we were able to express ourselves in the way that we want to, playing the type of rugby that we feel is our strength.

“So, ja, were quite happy in terms of how the game has been refereed this past weekend.”

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