WATCH: ’Test-match rugby might shock you a bit,’ Duane Vermeulen tells England’s new boys
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Cape Town – Duane Vermeulen feels that the 2019 Rugby World Cup final victory over England is “not a big motivator” for the Springboks in Saturday’s showdown with Eddie Jones’ side at Twickenham.
Instead, he suggested that the new-look English side, with many fresh faces who were in top form at their clubs, will quickly realise that Test rugby is not as easy when the teams face off in London (5.15pm SA time kickoff).
The big No 8 was the Man of the Match in that memorable World Cup final in Yokohama two years ago, but while Jones said that his team want a Bok “scalp” after they beat Australia 32-15 last week, the South Africans want to look forward instead.
“Maybe just a little bit (that the Boks studied the final) – we’ve just had a look at how we played and how England played, and obviously things have changed over the last couple of years,” Vermeulen said from the British capital on Wednesday.
“There has been the Covid situation, so it’s not a lot to look at. But that’s in the past now, and we’ve got to stay in the now and look to the present. We can only work on what we have, and what we’ve seen so far, and take it from there. But it’s not a big motivator to look at the past.
“We’ve seen some of their games, and they play a little bit different, if the game opens up a bit. You always play to your strengths, but I must say they have brought in a lot of new guys who bring a bit more excitement to the game – in their forwards and backline. It’s nice to see them using guys who are on form.
“But Test-match rugby is Test-match rugby, and if you are new, it might shock you a bit as it’s a whole different thing to playing at club level.
“But if you get an opportunity, you’ve got to play. We will see what we get on Saturday, but it’s a team with a lot of skill and a lot of pace, and they’re a team who back themselves.”
Vermeulen might be quietly relieved that he doesn’t need to mark giant England No 8 Billy Vunipola on Saturday, with Jones having dropped the Saracens star, which has seen regular openside flank Tom Curry move to the back of the scrum, with another fetcher in Sam Underhill wearing the No 7 jersey.
But the physicality of blindside flank Courtney Lawes will still be something that the Bok pack need to handle, and Vermeulen knows that they will have to fight fire with fire.
“If you look at Curry and Underhill, they played in 2019, and Courtney Lawes was the other loose forward they had. They are really good at the breakdown, and it’s going to be a difficult task for us,” he said.
“The form that they are in is great to see, and it will be a great battle for us. For us as a loose trio, we are trying to keep it simple and keep building on what we did during the week.
“Curry is a massive nuisance at the ruck. He’s really good at his job, and he does really well. I haven’t come up against (Sam) Simmonds and (Alex) Dombrandt – I’ve only watched them for their clubs, where they have been really outstanding.
“There are a lot of good, skilful back-rowers in the England squad, and it is going to be difficult for us (on Saturday).”