South Africa will have powerful number eight Duane Vermeulen by their side for the rugby championship clash with Australia at the Gold Coast on Sunday, but lost electric winger Cheslin Kolbe to a leg injury.
Vermeulen has missed the entire 2021 international season so far with an ankle injury, meaning he hasn’t played for the Springboks since his man of the match performance in the final victory of Rugby World Cup 2019 against England.
His return will strengthen their front pack, while he is also a dangerous runner with the ball in hand.
“Duane played an active role off the pitch in our team meetings and in analyzing the opposition, and he also provided coaching advice,” Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber said. .
“He returned to full training when we got to Australia, so he’s been in the thick of it for a while now.”
Scrum backs Faf de Klerk and Herschel Jantjies also returned to the squad on match day after injury, with flanker Marco van Staden, while lockdown Eben Etzebeth is back in the starting lineup after losing rests.
“Duane, Faf and Herschel are Rugby World Cup winners, as is Eben, who is back after we pivoted him to handle his workload, while Marco also had a big impact on the pitch this season, ”Nienaber said.
Kolbe is a key attack weapon for the Boks, but suffered a leg injury in practice on Friday and was replaced by Sbu Nkosi on the wing.
“Unfortunately, we lost Cheslin to injury, but we are fortunate to have Sbu come in. He has worked hard in training and is eager to get back on the pitch,” added Nienaber.
The Boks have won back-to-back matches against Argentina at the start of the Rugby Championship, but face an improvement in quality with their next two games against Australia and then two more against New Zealand.
“We will be tested extensively over the next four weeks, so we have to be ready to meet the challenge mentally and physically,” Nienaber conceded.
South Africa Day 23
Starting XV: 15. Willie le Roux, 14. S’bu Nkosi, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Handre Pollard, 9. Faf de Klerk, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Franco Mostert, 6. Siya Kolisi (captain), 5. Lood de Jager, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Frans Malherbe, 2. Bongi Mbonambi, 1. Steven Kitshoff.
Substitutes: 16. Malcolm Marx, 17. Ox Nche, 18. Vincent Koch, 19. Marco van Staden, 20. Kwagga Smith, 21. Jasper Wiese, 22. Herschel Jantjies, 23. Damian Willemse.