While Springboks still have a lot to show at the Rugby World Cup, and the opposition sides have not seen the best of them yet.
That’s the opinion of veteran loose forward Duane Vermeulen as the Boks gear up for their final Pool B match against Tonga in Marseille tonight (9pm kickoff).
And with a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs, the clash against the Tongans can go a long way in getting back valuable momentum after the South Africans lost 13-8 to Ireland last weekend.
After the Boks missed a bunch of scoring opportunities in the last match, Vermeulen has warned that opposition teams have not seen the best of the defending world champions yet.
When the South Africans run onto the Stade Velodrome pitch tonight, they will want to back up Vermeulen’s words as they strive to claim a bonus-point victory that should hand them a safe passage to the quarter-finals.
“I would like to say no,” Vermeulen answered yesterday to a question about whether the Boks had shown all their cards in the tournament.
“If you look at the Ireland game, I think that was a match to watch. That was probably one of the best pool matches. There are one or two small things that we need to work on.
“But I can say we’ve definitely got some juice left in the tank. We’re going to have to do it this weekend, because there are no second chances.
“We’ll definitely have to pitch up … We know we can give a great performance.”
The 37-year-old loose forward will pack down on the side of the scrum in the No 7 jersey, with the relatively inexperienced Jasper Wiese preferred at No 8 in a physical loose trio looking to combat the power of Tonga.
In the absence of injured hooker Malcolm Marx, Vermeulen’s ability at the breakdown will be important to the Boks. Captain Siya Kolisi’s interplay with the backs and Wiese’s physical play will free up Vermeulen to challenge at the breakdown.
“There is not much difference at all … You are still part of the loose forwards.
I am still at the back of the scrum, just on the side. It is not a big shift, just a change of number,” the former Stormers and Bulls stalwart said.
“The biggest change is that I will play with Jasper Wiese. I have never played with him, just a little bit against him. I am looking forward to it.”
Vermeulen was spotted in the Bok coaching box during the Ireland game, but while it was a unique experience for the veteran forward, he still prefers to be on the pitch.
“It was crazy. As the coaches already said, they gave opportunities to players to sit in coaching meetings. Everyone is welcome to sit in these meetings. They also give some players the opportunity to come up in the coaching box,” he said.
“We see and watch the game from a different angle. We also see how the coaches look at the game, and it brings you a different perspective to the game as a player.
“Players think about the game differently as coaches during this specific time so, for us, it is a nice dynamic.
“It makes us learn a little bit and shows us how we might think about the game. (Against Ireland) we knew what we wanted to do and achieve, and we had our opportunities.
“It is also daunting to be up there, but I actually enjoyed it. It was good fun.
“But I would rather be on the pitch tomorrow. I love it… that is the most important thing. That is what it is all about.”
Vermeulen is also happy for Kolisi, who will run out in his 50th Test as the Bok captain.
He has known Kolisi since the World Cup-winning skipper made his debut for the Stormers, and they have played plenty of Super Rugby and international matches together.
“I have known Siya for a very long time, from when he was a youngster coming up at provincial level for the Stormers,” Vermeulen said.
“He was a young, charismatic guy. He had a lot of opportunities to play and grabbed them with both hands.
“Within that whole system, he became a fantastic leader in the squad and took over the reins for the Boks.
“I can’t believe it is his 50th match as captain for the Springboks. That’s a fantastic achievement, and hopefully there are a lot more good things to come from this.”
Springbok Team: 15 Willie le Roux 14 Grant Williams 13 Canan Moodie 12 André Esterhuizen 11 Makazole Mapimpi 10 Handré Pollard 9 Cobus Reinach 8 Jasper Wiese 7 Duane Vermeulen 6 Siya Kolisi (captain) 5 Marvin Orie 4 Eben Etzebeth 3 Vincent Koch 2 Deon Fourie 1 Ox Nche.
Bench: 16 Marco van Staden 17 Steven Kitshoff 18 Trevor Nyakane 19 Franco Mostert 20 Kwagga Smith 21 Jaden Hendrikse 22 Jesse Kriel 23. Manie Libbok.