Springboks star striker Duane Vermeulen on Sunday took another step towards emulating British and Irish Lions skipper Alun Wyn Jones and appearing in the series after a miraculous recovery from injury.
Lock Jones joined the Lions halfway through the tour after defying medical advice by quickly regaining form after sustaining a shoulder injury in a warm-up victory over Japan in Edinburgh.
The most capped rugby player with 158 appearances for Wales and Lions has made the first two Tests of a dramatic series against the world champions.
A statement from South Africa Rugby said Vermeulen joined their camp a day after winning the second test 27-9 in Cape Town to tie the series ahead of the decider on Saturday.
The 2019 Rugby World Cup winner underwent surgery after injuring his ankle in a national game two months ago and the widespread opinion was that he would not recover in time for series.
“Duane will join us on Sunday and undergo a medical evaluation as soon as possible,” Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber said in a statement.
“We will never risk a player who is not 100% fit, but he brings experience to the team and it will be great to have him with us. “
The forward, who turned 35 last month, made a surprise comeback as a ‘water boy’ for the Bulls in recent Currie Cup games and coach Jake White said Vermeulen had been “actively involved in training”.
– ‘Bridge too far’ –
“He was pushing really hard to see if he could be available for the third test,” the 2007 World Cup-winning coach told reporters. “However, I think it’s probably a bridge too far.
“Duane is working hard to get back in shape, to make himself available for selection. He spends a lot of time with our medical staff, who help him with his rehabilitation.
“His rehabilitation is going very well and if everything continues to go as well as it has so far, he is probably three or four weeks away from playing. “
Vermeulen excels under the high ball, an aspect of the game where the Springboks showed tremendous improvement this weekend after finishing second in the first test.
He was desperate to face the Lions at test level in the twilight of his career as he was not part of the national team when tourists last visited South Africa in 2009.
Nienaber added that the Springboks will know more on Monday about a shoulder injury suffered by Pieter-Steph du Toit, World Rugby 2019 player of the year, in the second test.
Flanker Du Toit was injured after a late tackle by South African Lions winger Duhan van der Merwe and was clearly in pain before leaving the pitch midway through the first half.
© 2021 AFP