Vermeulen smart enough to lead the Boks

Text: HERMAN GIBBS                                          Picture: PETER HEEGER
CAPE TOWN, April 26 (ANA) – Duane Vermeulen underlined his claims as the next Springbok captain when he single-handedly snuffed out the Bulls’ attempt to snatch a last-gasp victory against the victorious DHL Stormers in front of 46 000 spectators at Newlands on Saturday.
There was every chance that the Stormers’ slender 15-13 lead could be undone right at the end when Bulls flyhalf Handré Pollard attempted a drop-goal in an effort to grab the lead – and the match, for the Pretoria visitors.
But Vermeulen was alert to the pending disaster and raced out to charge down Pollard’s matchwinning effort. He said after the match that he saw that the Bulls were lining up a drop attempt.
“I saw that they were planning a drop after they communicated that they would run the ball first for three more phases but as soon as they spun the ball out to Pollard I decided the time was right (to charge),” said Vermeulen. “It was a like a Test out there with the vibe and a sell-out crowd.”
The Stormers have moved to the top of the SA Conference standings with a one-point cushion and now the Cheetahs lie in wait for them in Bloemfontein next week, while the Bulls host the ever-improving Lions at Loftus Versfeld.
Stormers’ coach Allister Coetzee said the match was a brutal, physical encounter that keep the fans on the edge of their seats right to the end.
“The result have been so different and it was obvious that the Bulls came to play but it says a lot about the character of the Stormers that they pulled this one through,” said Coetzee.
“It was a great four (log) points, and in the context of the SA Conference log, it was like eight points. It is also the first time since 2012 that we beat the Bulls twice in a season.”
Coetzee heaped praise on his (substitutes) bench for the way in which they kept the Stormers in the picture right to the end.
“Our bench did very well after we played brilliantly in the first half,” said Coetzee. “Right at the end we ran with the scrum and it was just a pity that Duane couldn’t control the ball (we could have scored). We are now on top of the (SA) conference.”
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said his side’s decision-making was at the heart of the defeat.
“It was really good rugby by both teams but our decision-making was such that we could not convert (scoring) chances into points,” said Ludeke.
“There were times when we scrummed well but we did not get reward. We worked well as a unit in the line-out and that’s why we were able to take a lot of the Stormers’ ball and apply pressure there.
“The Stormers showed good momentum in the first half but our try was special.
“It is now time to get back on the horse because the Lions are waiting for us at home before we go on tour.”
Pierre Spies, the Bulls skipper, said his side was knocked back by the penalties which the Stormers converted to points.
“It was the nature of the game that we conceded penalty kicks and it took a time for us to absorb (the setback) that,” said Spies. “We came back – we knew it would be a close game, and you just hope that some of the (refs’) calls go your way.”

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