Vermeulen in demand, earmarked as potential defence coach for the Boks
But the man called Thor may still nail down a spot in the Bok coaching set-up
He may be the prime candidate to take over one of the vacant coaching positions in the Springbok coaching set-up but it should not be taken for granted that Duane Vermeulen will join his former teammates next year.
Vermeulen though, is said to be in demand.
The Bok talisman called time on his playing career after the Springboks successfully defended the Rugby World Cup (RWC) in France and speculation has been rife about him taking a coaching role in the set-up after head coach Jacques Nienaber and assistant Felix Jones departed the scene at the conclusion of the tournament.
Nienaber has joined Leo Cullen's coaching team at Leinster, while the versatile Jones will throw his weight behind Steve Borthwick at England.
Vermeulen has been earmarked as a potential defence coach for the Springboks and in that regard he will have big boots to fill. Nienaber, a long-time devotee to anything related to defensive systems, kept a tight grip on matters pertaining to the Bok defence. He took shortcomings in that department personally, and in Vermeulen the Boks will have a replacement who will also live and breathe the job.
Not just content of character
It isn't just the content of his character that makes Vermeulen a prime candidate for the job. Few understand the Bok defensive strategy or put the hammer down as the man called Thor. He, for the longest time, was the player who set the marker for the way in which the Boks kept their defensive lines intact.
Physicality in making offensive hits and a keen positional sense established Vermeulen as a vital cog in the Boks defensive system.
The bruising backrower who played 37 of his 76 Tests in the Erasmus/Nienaber era understands the Bok defensive system from a tactical and technical perspective. As for the mentality, few have a better grasp than the former No 8.
Moreover, having a much decorated and recently retired Bok warrior in that position may well serve to further embolden Green and Gold defenders.
Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus demands his players and personnel operate from the same page. With Nienaber, his trusty lieutenant now gone, Erasmus seeks continuity. He has often made the point that the Boks may not always have the best player in a particular position, but the one that will serve the job spec best.
Lacks experience but...
Vermeulen may not have coaching experience, but crucially, he understands the Bok way.
Recent suggestions that his appointment may be imminent, are off the mark.
“There is no specific timeline but we will want to have things wrapped early next year,” said SA Rugby CEO Rian Oberholzer.
“That will happen early next year. After the World Cup the guys took a break that was much needed. In the week after next we will have a meeting to see how we are going and then we will take it from there.”
It will, however, be prudent for SA Rugby to keep their options open as Vermeulen appears to be in demand elsewhere. One of those seeking his signature is Stormers' head coach John Dobson. With Vermeulen basing himself in the Cape, it is only natural for Dobson to be making overtures.
Vermeulen, however, found himself drawn closer into the Bok coaching orbit during the RWC. Erasmus had Vermeulen seated to his right in the coaches' box when the Springboks played Ireland in Paris during the RWC. That intensified speculation about a future role in the Bok set-up.