LONDON (Reuters) – South Africa’s number eight Duane Vermeulen expects a bruising forward tussle in the Springboks’ opening November international against England at Twickenham on Saturday and believes the set-piece battle could go a long way to deciding the contest.
Vermeulen was outstanding as the Boks claimed a 2-1 home series win over England in June, but the third test that ended in defeat in Cape Town took place in wet weather, which played into the hands of the tourists, according to the loose-forward.
“We realise it will be a huge contest on Saturday and if you don’t win your set-piece, you’re going to struggle at Twickenham,” Vermeulen told reporters on Tuesday.
“I think the weather played a big part of that match (at Newlands). It’s the type of conditions England are used to, so it’s going to be a bit different for us, to play up here in the north away from the harder fields and dry conditions.
“They put us under a lot of pressure at the breakdown. Our exits weren’t great. That’s some of the stuff we’ve worked on.
“We will also have to make adjustments and take the conditions and how the game is played up here into consideration.”
Vermeulen is back in the Bok squad after being allowed to miss the Rugby Championship while he took up a contract in Japan with Kubota Spears.
His presence at the back of the scrum, work-rate on defence and rampaging charges with ball in hand were missed for a Bok side that is improving under coach Rassie Erasmus, but far from the finished article some 11 months out from the start of the World Cup in Japan.
The sheer physicality of Vermeulen is a potent weapon when compared to the other number eights used by the Boks this year, Warren Whiteley and Francois Louw, and he is eager to test himself against Eddie Jones’ England again.
“I am really excited to be back and its always so special to be part of the Springboks. If I do get the opportunity to play on Saturday, I am looking forward to getting stuck in,” he said.
Vermeulen, who has 42 caps, won on both his previous visits to Twickenham as the Boks recorded a narrow 16-15 victory in 2012 and a 31-28 win two years later, and he was arguably South Africa’s most influential player in the home series victory in June.
The Boks will field an under-strength side without their overseas-based players for Saturday’s test, which falls outside of the international window.
They will also play France on Nov. 10, and then Scotland and Wales on consecutive weeks to complete their tour.
(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Toby Davis)