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Vermeulen hails Boks veterans

January 03, 2015 11:57:34 UK

South Africa number eight Duane Vermeulen believes that the experienced players are still vital components within the team.

Head coach Heyneke Meyer has persisted with Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha and Fourie du Preez, despite the end of their international careers seemingly being inevitable a couple of years ago.

But with the World Cup under a year away, Vermeulen insists he and his team-mates benefit from their past victories, even though the back-rower admits that the older players do receive some flak for their age.

He said: “There are always some jokes going around with the older guys. They really like to give them a hard time, but it’s sometimes nice to have them around as they’ve got a hell of a lot of experience.

“You learn from them every single day on the pitch and off the pitch so it’s nice to sit around and chat to them and see what they’ve gone through.

“I think Victor at 37 and still playing rugby is amazing and I would love to play rugby until 37, but it’s another 10 years and I don’t know if my body will keep up.”

Vermeulen has become a key member of the Springboks over the last couple of years, proving to be one of the best eights in the world, but even he had doubts as to whether he would end up as an international starter.

“It was frustrating,” he added. “I had a lot of injuries. I had three knee injuries in a row. I think the first time I was called up was in 2008 and I had a neck injury.

“It kind of felt like if it didn’t happen that year in 2012 or maybe 2013 then I might have been done or might have moved on to see what else I could do.

“Heyneke saw me, sat down with me and said: ‘listen, you are going to play for the Boks it’s just a matter of when.’ That ‘when’ came a lot earlier than I thought and it just grew from there.”

South Africa are 5.50 to win the World Cup later this year, while New Zealand are favourites at 2.30.

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