Vermeulen front goat in Wallaby battle


The experienced eight man Duane Vermeulen will lead the Springboks for the third time on Saturday when they face Australia at Loftus Versfeld in the opening match of the Rugby Championship.

Former Ireland international lock Jean Kleyn will make his first appearance for the Boks while flyhalf Manie Libbok and flyforward Marco van Staden are also in the starting line-up.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has named 14 players to leave for New Zealand early on Tuesday to acclimatise and increase the chances of performing well in the first two tests which take place seven days, 12,000 km and 10 time zones apart.

Vermeulen, who captained the Springboks against Argentina and the All Blacks in 2019, takes over the reins from the injured Siya Kolisi.

“Our plan from the start was to select a squad that we believe has what it takes to beat Australia, while at the same time selecting a squad of players who can travel to New Zealand to give us the best possible chance of doing well in both games,” said Nienaber.

“This team consists of several players who were part of the World Cup winning squad as well as many younger players who have done the job for us at the highest level, and judging by their enthusiasm and high work ethic during training, we know they are the right players for this great task.”

Nienaber is very happy with his choice to have a leader of Vermeulen’s caliber to lead the team. “We had a few options for possible captains and we have two good leaders in Duane and Lukhanyo (Am), who was named vice-captain for this game. They are both quality leaders and they will have a lot of experience around them on the pitch, which is fantastic for us as coaches.”

Regarding the threat posed by Australia, Nienaber said they are a top class team and have a good tactician in head coach Eddie Jones.

“It will be the first time in a while that we see them play under his guidance, so our focus is mainly on our game and what we would like to do in the game. This game is very important to set the tone for us this season, and we know that no matter what style of play Australia dishes out, it will be a physical and hard game.”

The group leaving early for New Zealand with a handful of management members includes Kolisi, who will continue to work with the medical and conditioning staff on his rehabilitation following his knee surgery. Nienaber, assistant coach Felix Jones and Rassie Erasmus, director of rugby, will travel to New Zealand immediately after the Australia Test to ensure that the team has a full week of training.

Another 17 or 18 players and team management members will travel to New Zealand on Sunday afternoon. This group of players will be decided after the Test against Australia, based on the team’s needs for the upcoming Test against New Zealand and player performances against Australia.

The players traveling to New Zealand on Tuesday are Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, Franco Mostert and Jean-Luc du Preez, Kwagga Smith, Faf de Klerk, Cheslin Kolbe, Makazole Mapimpi, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel and Kolisi.

Jasper Wiese will join these players in New Zealand later in the week after the birth of his child on Monday.

The Springboks team for the match against Australia:

15 – Willie le Roux

14 – Canaan Moodie

13 – Lukhanyo Am

12 – Andre Esterhuizen

11 – Kurt-Lee Arendse

10 – Manie Libbok

9 – Cobus Reinach

8 – Duane Vermeulen (captain)

7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit

6 – Marco van Staden

5 – Marvin Orie

4 – Jean Klein

3 – Frans Malherbe

2 – Bongi Mbonambi

1 – Ox Nche


16 – Joseph Dweba

17 – Thomas du Toit

18 – Vincent Koch

19 – RG Snyman

20 – Evan Roos

21 – Deon Fourie

22 – Grant Williams

23 – Damian Willemse