If Jake White is the professor of rugby here in South Africa then Duane Vermeulen is surely the dean when it comes to wise counsel for the players. And the duo teamed up on Friday to plot the downfall of the Stormers in the United Rugby Championship final in Cape Town on Saturday.
Not only is Vermeulen, who played for White at the Bulls in 2020 and 2021, one of the most respected wise old heads in South African rugby, but he also has all the knowledge from last weekend’s semi-final when his Ulster team only just went down to the Stormers via a conversion after the hooter.
“Duane is coming to eat with me just now and then he will come to captain’s practice with me this afternoon,” White revealed on Friday.
“I will show him our lineouts and he can explain how Ulster felt they stopped the Stormers maul so well last weekend.
“It’s going to be incredible input to have to help us close down their maul as the lineout drives are going to play a big part in the final.”
The fact that Vermeulen is also a Stormers legend and is now in the enemy camp is not going to sit well with the Cape Town faithful. But change is the one constant in life and how the Stormers adapt to the shifting strategic needs during the final will perhaps be the deciding factor in who become the first URC champions.
Bulls have the skills
White, who named an unchanged team on Friday, is confident that the Bulls have the game-management skills to fit their tactics to the situation and the expected bad weather.
“This team has found a way to win in different ways, they are clever enough to work out how to win while they’re on the field,” White said.
“They have continually learnt lessons. Last time we were here against the Stormers we didn’t play well, our heads were in another place and the players admitted that. But finals rugby is different.
“We faced unbelievable conditions last week against Leinster, but we found a way to play. Against Connacht we experienced playing against the wind in the first half and in the second half.
“The coaches have done enough work, the scenario planning has all been done. What the players have learnt has given them confidence for the final.”
The World Cup winning coach also said the much-vaunted Stormers scrum, which he admitted was one of the home team’s key strengths, would not be the advantage it should be because of the unstable turf of the Cape Town Stadium.
The canny coach made a plea to the referee, Andrew Brace, to not let the result be decided by a penalty for a collapsed scrum.
Canan Moodie, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Cornal Hendricks, Harold Vorster, Madosh Tambwe, Chris Smith, Zak Burger, Elrigh Louw, Arno Botha, Marcell Coetzee (captain), Ruan Nortje, Walt Steenkamp, Mornay Smith, Johan Grobbelaar, Gerhard Steenekamp.
Bench: Bismarck du Plessis, Simphiwe Matanzima, Robert Hunt, Janko Swanepoel, WJ Steenkamp, Embrose Papier, Morne Steyn, David Kriel.