The surprise omission of eighthman Duane Vermeulen from the Springboks 35-man squad named for their European end-of-year-tour on Friday, was always part of the plan, according to SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus.
Since making an underwhelming return from injury to the Bok team during the Rugby Championship, Vermeulen has struggled for form and consistency, and saw Jasper Wiese overtake him as the starting no8.
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He only started two games, the losses against the All Blacks at Ellis Park and Australia in Adelaide, while then featuring a number of times off the bench in other games.
It was thought that Vermeulen would thus get another chance to prove he is worthy of a Bok place ahead of next year’s World Cup on the end-of-year-tour, however the team management already believes he has done enough to secure that.
Thus the ageing Vermeulen has been given a chance to rest his weary legs, with Erasmus admitting that he wasn’t the only player who would have missed out due to his age.
“Even if Frans Steyn were fit, he wouldn’t have been selected for this tour,” explained Erasmus.
“We always had a plan during the Rugby Championship and what we tried to achieve there. Some of the guys are getting older in the legs but might still make it to the World Cup.
“We’ve seen enough and know their commitment and we believe a guy like Duane doesn’t need any more experience.”
This is now the perfect opportunity for Wiese to permanently solidify his place as the first choice eighthman for the Boks, while Evan Roos also now has a golden opportunity to make a massive statement.
Just over a week ago Roos looked destined to be part of the SA A team, with Wiese, Vermeulen and Elrigh Louw all ahead of him on the eighthman pecking order, however with Vermeulen missing out and Louw injured, Roos can now stake his own claim for a World Cup berth.
“This is probably the perfect tour, when you’re playing the number one (Ireland) and number two ranked (France) teams in the world, which gives us an opportunity to see how some of the youngsters will handle it, if they get an opportunity,” added Erasmus.