Duane Vermeulen can offset Pieter-Steph du Toit’s possible absence for Lions series decider
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DURBAN - The high-riding Springboks had even more to smile about on Sunday when their talismanic No 8, Duane Vermeulen, reported for duty at their Cape Town base.
Vermeulen has still to be cleared by medical staff but the signs are there that he could play a dramatic role in the series decider on Saturday. Why else call him up?
The Boks have potentially lost the highly-influential Pieter-Steph du Toit to injury, while the two players they have used in trying to fill Vermeulen’s mighty boots — Kwagga Smith and Jasper Wiese — have only been partially successful, so the return of the vastly experienced 35-year-old will be welcome indeed.
We have seen how the Lions’ captain, Alun Wyn Jones, made a miraculous return from injury to play in the first and second Tests, so it would be fitting if Vermeulen could do something similar after crocking his ankle playing for the Bulls two months ago.
Vermeulen, who reported for duty briefly at the team’s training camp in Bloemfontein in June, has been undergoing rehabilitation following surgery.
However, his steady progress has proved to be sufficient for Vermeulen to be called up to the squad that levelled the Lions series with a convincing 27-9 victory on Saturday.
“Duane will join us on Sunday and will be medically assessed as soon as possible,” said Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber.
“We will never risk a player who is not 100 percent fit but he brings experience to the squad and it will be great to have him with us.”