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Duane bites back: 'If you're not here you don't really understand'

By Liam Heagney

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Duane Vermeulen has spoken about the hardships the Springboks have had to endure with their participation in the 2021 Rugby Championship, insisting that their last-gasp victory over the All Blacks in their fourth and final match in Australia was a deserved reward that now sets them up for their three-game November tour. Having coped with the pandemic restrictions in their own country for the Lions series in Cape Town and then the opening two rounds of Championship matches in Port Elizabeth versus Argentina, the Springboks flew to Brisbane on August 26 and had to spend two weeks in quarantine in advance of their matches versus the Wallabies and the All Blacks. 

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The schedule will now see the home-based Springboks players fly back to South Africa and enjoy a two-week break before then heading north for November’s three-match tour where they will face Wales, Scotland and England on successive Saturdays.

Jacques Nienaber’s squad came in for huge criticism this past week from their own fans after the loss of three matches on the bounce for the first time since 2016. That barren run has now ended with victory over the All Blacks and the long-serving Vermeulen, who recently signed for Ulster from the Bulls, took a moment at the post-game media briefing on the Gold Coast to explain to Springboks critics how difficult it has been for the squad in recent weeks in Australia.

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What Nathan Sharpe thought would unfold in Rugby Championship round six
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What Nathan Sharpe thought would unfold in Rugby Championship round six

“You have the public and the media that have their opinion on what we do on tour and the things we go through, but if you are not here you don’t really understand what we are going through. It’s difficult. People say it is your job and whatever, and we don’t listen to the public’s opinion, but it’s not as easy as people think.

“You are away from home, away from your families, you don’t see your kids. There are a lot of guys that have children and you don’t spend time with them and that is vital to your mental state and where you are as a person and as a player. It’s a difficult thing being away from home and we had our challenges with the team.

“Our first two weeks we were in hard lockdown, we couldn’t do anything. We had no support in the hotel. You had to do all the things on your own, make your bed, clean your room and it’s a whole different set-up. And then once you are out of quarantine it’s a whole different thing as well. You have got to keep on adjusting to what is thrown at us and sometimes it is difficult and we miss it a bit. But at the end, we got it all together and walk away with a win at the end of our tour,” continued Vermeulen, the 2019 World Cup final player of the match for the Springboks.

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“It’s good vibes and good energy now and hopefully we can take that positive energy going into the end-of-year tour. We only have two weeks off back home and then we go on another five or six-week tour. It’s difficult, it’s a whole different set-up and with Covid, it makes it more difficult but the team is in a good mental state at the moment and hopefully we can take that going into the end of the year.”

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Duane bites back: 'If you're not here you don't really understand'

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