Heinz Schenk
2 minute read
13 Aug 2018
2:26 pm

Rassie’s reminder: Whiteley is not Vermeulen

Heinz Schenk

But that's not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to the Springboks' No 8 jersey...

Warren Whiteley during the Springbok Open Training Session and Fan Engagement at Belhar Rugby Club on August 09, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Carl Fourie/Gallo Images)

Warren Whiteley is not Duane Vermeulen … but that’s not a bad thing.

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus on Monday reiterated that the process of incorporating the Lions skipper (and former Bok captain) back into the team is a careful one.

Whiteley hasn’t played in the Green-and-Gold since June last year when a long-term pelvic injury kept him on the sidelines.

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He returned for the start of Super Rugby before knee trouble saw him miss the series against England.

In his absence, Erasmus lured the evergreen Duane Vermeulen back and the hulking No 8 was an instant hit again, especially in terms of his physicality and ability at the breakdown.

Yet the 32-year-old isn’t available for the Rugby Championship due to club commitments in Japan.

“We’re going to have to pick our forward pack carefully. We want to keep the grunt and the softer skills,” said Erasmus as the Boks prepare for their tournament opener against Argentina in Durban on Saturday.

“When you try to put those things together you can’t just plug Warren in there at No 8. We can’t expect Warren just to come in and do what Duane can do.”

It’s indeed a very valid point.

Whiteley and Vermeulen are not the same type of player.

With Whiteley back, the Boks perhaps sacrifice a loose forward that’s dominant in the collisions and also miss out on Vermeulen’s poaching.

However, the return of hooker Malcolm Marx and the presence of the wise Francois Louw at No 6 compensates in that regard.

Whiteley, in turn, provides a type of dynamism lacking from Vermeulen’s game.

“It’s important to remember that there are a lot of things that Warren can do that Duane can’t,” said Erasmus.

“What you sometimes lose in a certain aspect, you gain in plenty others. It’s just about making sure you pick a loose trio that nullifies any attributes you may lose. But I’ve got a pretty clear idea in my mind.”

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