Springbok assistant coach Deon Davids addressed the media from the team base in Bloemfontein on Wednesday and said they do have plans at No 8, with Vermeulen still sidelined after injuring his ankle playing for the Vodacom Bulls a few weeks ago.
According to Davids, the bruising Bok No 8 will join the squad at a later stage, but it’s basically a foregone conclusion that he won’t be able to face Georgia in the two Tests early next month, while he's in a race to be fit to face the British & Irish Lions, with just over a month to go before the first Test.
“We are open-minded in our approach and we have a few options available to fill in for Duane,” said Davids.
“We have shifted players around at training, and we have players such as Kwagga (Smith), Jasper (Wiese), who is a young guy, and Dan du Preez, all of whom have played at No 8 before.
“So, we will do a thorough assessment in terms of our needs in the team and we will have a clear idea (of the team we want to select) on Monday or Tuesday.”
Apart from Vermeulen, the Munster duo of RG Snyman (lock) and Damian de Allende (centre) are still on the mend after suffering burns recently, but news from Ireland is that they have recovered sufficiently to travel to South Africa.
Davids said the national coaching staff would discuss their team selection early next week once the outstanding overseas-based players have reported for duty this weekend. The Springboks will wrap up their conditioning camp in Bloemfontein on Thursday before travelling to their base in Johannesburg for the Tests against Georgia.
“A few players are coming in on the weekend and we will do thorough assessments on where they are and then make decisions (on team selection),” said Davids.
“All the injured players are busy with their rehabilitation and we are in ongoing discussions with their medical staff.”
Davids reiterated that the Boks can prepare themselves for bruising forward battles against the British & Irish Lions and Georgians next month, and said his charges were well aware of what it would take to make their presence felt against the tourists.
The Lions have named Alun Wyn Jones and Iain Henderson to start in the engine room against Japan this weekend, with Tadgh Beirne at blindside flank. Courtney Lawes has been included on the bench, but Maro Itoje will only get game time when they arrive in South Africa.
“I have been scanning through the Lions team and they have a quality pack of forwards,” said Davids.
“They have Alun Wyn Jones leading the charge and guys such as Tadgh and Courtney Lawes, while anyone on their bench could be in the starting line-up going forward so it will be interesting to see.”
Looking ahead at the historic series, Davids said while the lineouts would be a key area, it would take a solid effort all around to deliver the desired results.
“Obviously the lineouts are a key component of the game today, but it doesn’t end there,” said the coach.
“The locks and loose forwards add to that. They have good lineout forwards, so that battle will be interesting. But our locks have proved their worth in the Rugby World Cup.”
With two Tests against Georgia to look forward to before the Castle Lager Lions Series, Davids was pleased with the progress being made at team’s conditioning camp in Bloemfontein in the last two and half weeks and said the matches at Loftus Versfeld on Friday, 2 July, and Emirates Airline Park on 9 July, would lay a solid the foundation for the team.
“The last few weeks have been important to lay the foundation in terms of what we want to achieve and to formulate the strategy we want to apply in the Georgia games as we progress into the Castle Lager Lions Series.
“We’ve been working very hard and the players have responded well on and off the field.
“We have tested different combinations and assessed the different areas of the game, and we have a good understanding of what we want to do against Georgia. By Sunday and Monday we will have a good idea of how we want to approach the next two games.
“The players cannot wait to take the field against Georgia.”