Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Duane Vermeulen ready to fight for World Cup spot

"I realise how much the situation has changed, and how my role may be different this time round."

The Springboks, as always, will have a massive conundrum on their hands when picking their side for the 2023 World Cup, with them expected to have only five slots available for loose forwards in the squad.

With the plethora of loose forward talent in the country it begs the question who will make the cut and who is set to miss out?

One of the big decisions will hinge on whether experienced eighthman Duane Vermeulen will make the cut, with the soon to be 37-year-old part of a number of players who is on the cusp of selection.

Vermeulen, Roos or Van Staden?

The most likely picks for the Boks loose forward slots will be Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese and Kwagga Smith, with injury probably the only reason that one of those four would miss out on selection for the showpiece event.

Just one place will then remain and Vermeulen will be challenged by the likes of Evan Roos and Marco van Staden for that spot.

It is highly unlikely that more than five loose forwards will be picked as Franco Mostert will probably be selected among the locks, while it is looking increasingly likely that Deon Fourie will be picked as the third choice hooker, which adds to management’s options.

It is thus expected that some deserving names will unfortunately by left out, however, Vermeulen is hopeful that he will make the cut for his third World Cup appearance.

‘I want to be at World Cup’

In an interview with the RugbyPass website, Vermeulen explained that he was set to retire back in 2021 before Covid changed those plans.

“Covid played a big role in my decision not to retire from the international game in 2021. We had a lot of time off after the 2019 World Cup due to the pandemic, and in a sense we had a lot of time to rest our bodies that we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said Vermeulen.

“I don’t regret my decision to stay on. I’ve come a long way with Rassie (Erasmus) and Jacques Nienaber (having worked with them at the Cheetahs, Stormers and Boks) and I respect them a great deal as coaches. I said that if I can add value, I will continue to fight for a spot.

“My goal has never changed, I want to be part of the Bok team and I want to represent them at the World Cup.

“That said, I realise how much the situation has changed, and how my role may be different this time round. I may be part of the squad, but not a starter. That’s okay. I’ve just got to work as hard as I can to perform that role to the best of my ability.”

An extended Springbok squad is set to be named over the weekend and will be meeting in Pretoria on Monday next week ahead of the start of the international season in July.