CAPE TOWN – While the Cheetahs have tremendous speed throughout their team, the big question for them this weekend is how do they tackle Duane Vermeulen?
That will be one of their main challenges when they host the Bulls in today’s Super Rugby Unlocked clash in Bloemfontein. Vermeulen missed last week’s 30-23 win over Griquas, but has recovered sufficiently from a bump to the knee to captain the Bulls at the Free State Stadium.
He will bring much-needed leadership and direction to a Bulls pack that perhaps underestimated an unheralded Griquas outfit, and were caught out a few times by the fiery approach from the Kimberley-based team.
And Vermeulen knows what’s coming, having played a few seasons for the Cheetahs before moving to the Stormers in 2007.
“I can’t really say I had a good rest, as we had to take good care of the knee and get the swelling down. But at this very moment, we are happy with where we are, and I can play on Friday,” the Springbok No 8 said.
“I played two years for the Cheetahs, and it was a fantastic time in my career. But I have come up against them in the past, so I am kind of used to playing against them. I know that they will be really pumped up to play the Bulls.
“Griquas came out with a massive bang and put us on the back foot. But there was a lot of character shown by the players to pull the win out of the hat at the end. We’ve got a plan on how we want to play the Cheetahs, and obviously you have to execute that plan. This past Saturday, we didn’t really execute the plan to perfection, and then you are going to see yourself behind your posts.”
Indeed. The Cheetahs scored eight thrilling tries in their 53-31 win over the Pumas, with backs and forwards combining for some exhilarating passages of attacking play.
But Jake White’s Bulls will look to engage in a bit of an arm-wrestle upfront, in order to deny the hosts momentum and front-foot ball for the backs.
One sure way of doing that is by making greater use of the maul, something that they were unable to capitalise on against Griquas, who were able to stop a few early drives from the lineouts.
15 Clayton Blommetjies 14 Malcolm Jaer 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg 12 Frans Steyn 11 Rosko Specman 10 Tian Schoeman 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain) 8 Jasper Wiese 7 Junior Pokomela 6 Andisa Ntsila 5 Walt Steenkamp 4 Carl Wegner 3 Luan de Bruin 2 Reinach Venter 1 Charles Marais
Bench: 16 Jacques du Toit 17 Boan Venter 18 Erich de Jager 19 JP du Preez 20 Aidon Davis 21 Chris Massyn 22 Tian Meyer 23 William Small-Smith
15 Gio Aplon 14 David Kriel 13 Cornal Hendricks 12 Clinton Swart 11 Jade Stighling 10 Morne Steyn 9 Embrose Papier 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain) 7 Arno Botha 6 Marco van Staden 5 Ruan Nortje 4 Jason Jenkins 3 Trevor Nyakane 2 Johan Grobbelaar 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Bench: 16 Joe van Zyl 17 Gerhard Steenekamp 18 Mornay Smith 19 Sintu Manjezi 20 Nizaam Carr 21 Ivan van Zyl 22 Chris Smith 23 Stedman Gans