Jacques Nienaber has hailed Duane Vermeulen as someone made for the “big moments” while opening up on the veteran’s role with the Springboks as a coach and player.
Vermeulen watched from the coaches box as South Africa tackled Ireland in a battle between the reigning world champions and current world number one.
Nienaber’s defensive general has been linked with a move into coaching as he winds down his professional career after the World Cup.
“I can’t say if he’s preparing for the future,” the Bok head coach said. “It’s not the first time that we have had a player in the box. It’s good for us as coaches to sometimes have a player [there], because they give us a different perspective of how our communication is within the team. They get a sense of the sometimes frustration that coaches are under in a coaches’ box. That grows them as a player.
“Our coaches’ meeting starts at seven in the morning – any player can join that. Let’s say it gets to something sensitive like team selection, we will excuse them from the meeting and have the internal discussion, but they are more than willing – from 2018 – to sit in coaches’ meeting as much as they want.”
The 37-year-old also joined his teammates for the pre-game warm-up at the Stade de France in Paris, leading to speculation that he might be included in the matchday-23 as a surprising late change.
After sitting out the 13-8 loss, Vermeulen has been included in the starting lineup for Sunday’s clash with Tonga, this time donning the No 7 jersey, as Jasper Wiese has been retained at No 8.
“Duane’s role; if you look back to 2019, the best way to describe it is a Francois Louw role,” Nienaber continued. “He’s a guy that can start, that can play a Test match for you, but he’s also a guy that’s got a lot of experience and he adds his wealth of knowledge into the group.
“Not saying that he can’t start. Look at Francois Louw, the contribution he made in that semi-final for us, to get a penalty in the 76th minute.
“Big moments, big roles, been there before – he’s [Vermeulen’s] probably in that mould, but if there’s an injury and he has to start and play the whole game, he’s more than fit and good enough to do that.”
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