The big, burning question around the Bok No 8 position

Duane Vermeulen isn't going to be around for much longer, so the hunt is well and truly on to find a suitable replacement.


After Duane "Thor" Vermeulen was honoured with the country’s most coveted rugby award this week, a question remains which has not yet been answered: Who will replace big Duane when he is done? At 34 Vermeulen is in the form of his life, but what will happen if he is to break down and get injured or decide to call it a day? No doubt the Bulls captain is still good to go for the series against the British and Irish Lions, and even for the next World Cup in France in 2023 when he will be 36. Having had…

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After Duane “Thor” Vermeulen was honoured with the country’s most coveted rugby award this week, a question remains which has not yet been answered: Who will replace big Duane when he is done?

At 34 Vermeulen is in the form of his life, but what will happen if he is to break down and get injured or decide to call it a day?

No doubt the Bulls captain is still good to go for the series against the British and Irish Lions, and even for the next World Cup in France in 2023 when he will be 36.

Having had to stand in line behind Pierre Spies, Francois Louw and later Warren Whiteley, Vermeulen had to bide his chance before the due recognition came his way.

He had to follow a route which included stints at the Pumas, the Cheetahs, the Stormers and then eventually Toulon, and it took time before the Bok selectors realised what a world star they had in him.

After being named Man of the Match in the World Cup final against England in Japan in 2019, Vermeulen became a driving force at the Bulls along with coach Jake White, and his previous leadership role with Western Province no doubt served him well, along with being one of the leaders in the Bok forward pack.

If one looks locally, the Cheetahs have Jeandre Rudolph, the Sharks Sikhumbuzo Notshe, the Stormers Juarno Augustus, and the Lions Len Massyn and young rising star Francke Horn.

While Bok captain Siya Kolisi, who is on a rehabilitation period of six weeks, can also play at No 8, none of the above candidates are in the same class of Vermeulen.

As is stands Vermeulen had to undergo a minor knee ligament operation after the Currie Cup, which put him out of the Preparation Series, but at this stage it’s not a train smash. It’s just a matter of getting him in shape for the Lions tour.

With a few warm-up Tests probably on the cards before the Boks take on the Lions, presumably in the United Kingdom, SA director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and national coach Jacques Nienaber will no doubt want to build squad depth.

Erasmus and Nienaber are also likely to look north where the Du Preez twins, Dan and Jean-Luc, have been making waves along with former Cheetahs star Jasper Wiese and Kwagga Smith in Japan.

They could even go the route of the 1995 and 2007 World Cup winning Bok teams which moved a lock with great success to the No 8 spot, as were the cases with Sharks lock Mark Andrews and Bulls lock Danie Rossouw.

But for now, let’s hope Vermeulen stays injury free. The Boks need him.

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