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By Heinz Schenk


The Springboks need Duane Vermeulen to save them

The experienced eighthman is back in the national squad and there's a reason to be so melodramatic about it.

Duane Vermeulen is going to have to save Springbok rugby.

It’s a bold and perhaps even melodramatic statement to make.

But it’s true.

So excuse me for jumping up and down on Monday when the South African Rugby Union announced that the experienced 31-year-old No 8 had been called up for the injured Coenie Oosthuizen.

However, the reason Vermeulen needs to succeed is not because the Springboks need a positive result against France in Paris on Saturday night to save face.

Vermeulen needs to flourish to prove that national coach Allister Coetzee’s whole outlook is inflicting severe damage on the Bok brand.

If there’s been a dominant theme to Coetzee’s 2017 planning it’s been “team culture”.

He’s been talking endlessly about it.

But before we criticise it, let’s first acknowledge that there was merit to it.

When the Springboks got together for the series against France in mid-year, there had been a seismic shift in policy.

It was the first time a national coach couldn’t pick overseas-based players if they hadn’t played 30 or more Tests.

More importantly, that rule found a positive response from the public.

Nothing soothes a conservative fan more than the message of picking locally-based players “because they stay loyal”.

Yet as the year has progressed, we’ve been shown that team culture and dogged faith in a player means nothing if that player isn’t up to international standard.

Now, Coetzee has previously provided a counter to that argument.

In fact, he used it two weeks ago to explain why Vermeulen wasn’t in the selection mix.

“It’s not going to be easy to come from club rugby and step into our mix, especially with the way we train,” he said.

Here’s the thing.

If you’re going to say something like that, it implies that your training methods are better than a French giant in Toulon.

It should be but it isn’t.

We’ve seen over the past two years that Coetzee is not a coach that’s going to improve our players.

Three record defeats against the All Blacks, Ireland and Wales as well as that shocking first loss to Italy have proven that.

If Coetzee and his staff were really top-class coaches, they would’ve gotten far more out of this group of players because that’s what good coaches do: they get more out of a mediocre player than you’d expect.

Think Eddie Jones with Japan at the 2015 World Cup or Vern Cotter with Scotland.

We need Vermeulen to succeed so that we can realise again that blind loyalty can’t compensate for proven class.

Picking him will not disrupt the so-called team culture because there’s nothing to disrupt anymore.

It’s been shattered already.

Who is Coetzee kidding anyway?

Players of class like Vermeulen got to where they are because they are adaptable.

And heck, what on earth is there to understand about this current Springbok setup when they look as clueless as the 38-3 defeat to the Irish this past weekend showed?

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.

Heinz Schenk: Online Sports Editor.



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