Rugby Championship News

Meyer : Vermeulen is a big worry for Springboks





South African head coach Heyneke Meyer says that an injury to Springboks’ eighthman Duane Vermeulen has put a dampener on their Rugby Championship victory over Australia’s Wallabies.

South Africa’s Springboks lost the first of the two matches between the sides and although they struggled to gain the ascendancy early on in the match they surged at the end of the contest and won 28-10.

Number 8 Vermeulen was forced from the field almost on the hour mark with a rib injury and was sent for scans on Saturday.

Vermeulen was replaced by lock Bakkies Botha because, by that stage, South Africa’s loose forward reserve, Schalk Burger, had been sent on a few minutes earlier.

“I’m really worried about Duane,” said Meyer after the match. “Duane injured his ribs and it is a concern for us.

“He is one of the leaders in the team, and a player who is in great form at present.”

With next week’s New Zealand clash looming large on the Bok radar, Meyer would want the formidable Vermeulen in tow.

Meyer would also like to maintain selection continuity, although the exciting performances of some of Saturday’s substitutes may weigh heavily on his mind when deciding on next week’s squad.

“We had a lot of injuries this year and could not really build momentum because of that. That is why I am so pleased with the next group of guys who stepped in as we now have a nice depth to our squad.”

Saturday’s result came as a huge relief for Meyer after his side had suffered back-to-back defeats going into the match. He said before the match that a win on Saturday would determine whether the Springboks had a “good season or an average one”.

Meyer said he was known as a coach who traded heavily on players’ fitness and felt that fitness was the underlying reason for the Boks’ rousing play in the closing stages, when the substitutes grabbed the match by the scruff of the neck.

“We played great rugby at times in the first half, but their defence was great,” said Meyer.

“We became a bit frustrated because of that, but in the second half the fitness levels and impact from the bench were massive for us.

“They (the reserves) were all huge in their contributions and I have to thank them. It was good to see that my decision to have some experience on the bench worked out for us.”

Even though the Boks had been assured of victory after Pat Lambie’s 78th-minute try, they remained composed in their bid for a fourth try for a bonus point when, time-wise, it looked beyond them.

Meyer praised the fact that his team did not lose their focus in setting out to score a fourth try.

“The team also refused to give up,” said Meyer. “They sprinted back to our line after the third try, wanting to get that fourth one and we managed that.

“We scored some great tries when we finally managed to break them down.”

South African captain Jean de Villiers was at the heart of his side’s barnstorming finish and he felt it would boost them psychologically ahead of next week’s final Rugby Championship match against New Zealand.

“We will take all the good from this match into next week. We came so close to beating New Zealand in Wellington, and I think we can be very competitive next weekend at Ellis Park,” said De Villiers.

“We did not play badly in Perth and Wellington. We did many good things there. Tonight (Saturday) was an improvement on that and next week we have to step up again.

“If we continue this, we can beat New Zealand next week.

“To finish the Test match with a very late try that secured the bonus point to conclude a massive team effort was equally pleasing.

“It was a special performance and I’d rate it among the top 10 (in my Test career). We were unstoppable at stages towards the end.”

De Villiers had a dig at the media for raising transformation hype around the selection of starting debutant Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohojé.

“I thought a couple of guys really got insulted by the media this week, that they got selected only on colour, and I think the display showed that each (player) was selected on merit and hopefully that’s the last time we read something like that,” said De Villiers.

Australia’s coach Ewen McKenzie clearly felt sorry for his players afterwards and said the final scoreline was not a true reflection of the contest.

“To let in three tries at the end was a really disappointing finish and probably an unfair reflection of the contribution the team had put in across (the) 70 minutes,” McKenzie said.

“I actually felt for the players who set the game up. I thought they did a really good job. That is probably going to get lost in the final scoreline unfortunately.

“Our tackling had been outstanding in the first 60 (minutes).”

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