BRISBANE (Reuters) – South Africa stalwart Duane Vermeulen said it was tough sitting on the sidelines while the Springboks took on the British & Irish Lions but he is now ready to return for the Rugby Championship.
The 35-year-old is regarded as one of the world’s best loose forwards, playing a leading role in helping South Africa win the 2019 World Cup, but an ankle injury kept him from competing against the Lions in July and August.
“It was a tough one to miss out, it was the one other bucket-list item that I really wanted to tick off,” he told a news conference on Wednesday.
“My injury was a bit more severe than everyone thought, and although I hoped to get back on the field for the third test, I just wasn’t ready in time.
“I had to go to coach Jacques Nienaber and let him know I would have dropped the team if he put me out on the field.
“It was a tough decision, but definitely the correct one at that stage just to ensure I recovered and could be ready and fit for the next games.
“But I was fortunate to be part of the squad and next to the field for the final game of the series.
“The transition after being water boy for a couple of weeks really got me pumped up, and now I’m just so looking forward to getting back on the pitch and playing my part within the squad.”
South Africa defeated the Lions 2-1 in the series.
Vermeulen also sat out South Africa’s winning start to the Rugby Championship with successive victories over Argentina last month.
They are now in quarantine in Australia, where they will compete in the remainder of southern hemisphere championship with two tests against the Wallabies and two against the All Blacks.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Peter Rutherford)