Duane may have a point, but he’s part of the prob­lem

CityPress - - Sport - Simnikiwe Xa­ban­isa sports@city­press.co.za Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Simx­a­ban­isa

When it comes to the lot of a cur­rent Spring­bok, War­ren White­ley said it best this week.

“I have been in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion be­fore,” said the “runt” who had to travel far and wide in South Africa to play first-class rugby, and to lead the Lions to the Su­per Rugby fi­nal and play for the Boks.

“I’ve played in a team that has been on the wrong side of re­sults and has strug­gled to get mo­men­tum, [a team] that has stuck to [its] guns and even­tu­ally turned a cor­ner. I’m in it for the long run. The re­sults might not go in our way, but if we stay con­sis­tent in what we want to achieve, it will come.”

White­ley strikes one as a guy who’s wan­dered into a brawl not ex­actly of his mak­ing, but de­cided to stay in the fight to help his mates out. Duane Ver­meulen’s re­cent ut­ter­ances sug­gest that, when con­fronted with the same sit­u­a­tion, he de­cided to adopt a wait-and-see ap­proach.

Ver­meulen told the Daily Tele­graph last week: “At the mo­ment, it’s just chaos. Ev­ery­one has their own agenda. That’s my opin­ion. Maybe I am the first ac­tive player to voice their opin­ion. I just wanted to stand up for the play­ers. If that hin­ders my op­por­tu­nity to be se­lected, then so be it. I stand by what I said. It is just giv­ing peo­ple facts of what is go­ing on.”

While it’s nice to have an in­sider con­firm what all of us have been say­ing – that things aren’t quite right in South African rugby – I still can’t help but think Ver­meulen and his “protest” are part of the prob­lem. Based on the paucity of ob­vi­ous can­di­dates for the cap­taincy once Adri­aan Strauss de­parts the scene, a limp-wristed de­fence, a sham­bolic ap­proach to the break­down and an ap­par­ent in­abil­ity to win col­li­sions, the Bok team lacks two things – lead­er­ship and at­ti­tude.

These are qual­i­ties the man nick­named Thor has al­ways had in abun­dance (re­mem­ber the day he took on the All Blacks with a rib car­ti­lage in­jury and emerged as man of the match in a game in which then world player of the year Kieran Read was play­ing?). Hear­ing play­ers speak rev­er­en­tially of Ver­meulen’s de­mand for high stan­dards in train­ing, he strikes me as a col­league you punch way above your weight not to dis­ap­point. But what use is his in­flu­ence from out­side the team?

Whether he likes it or not, Ver­meulen is in a dif­fer­ent po­si­tion to key­board war­riors like my­self in that, as a player, he is in a po­si­tion to roll up his sleeves and do some­thing about the malaise of the Spring­bok team. By giv­ing the im­pres­sion he is wait­ing for the stars to be aligned be­fore he can lend his con­sid­er­able weight to the cause, he is no dif­fer­ent to those who bit­terly crit­i­cised the Boks all year and then turned down in­vi­ta­tions to be part of the so­lu­tion at the coaches’ ind­aba.

We like to gen­tly rib Bryan Ha­bana for seem­ingly want­ing to play for South Africa un­til his mid-40s, but this week he limped into the Bok camp to help. South African rugby needs all hands on deck, and Ver­meulen’s size­able pair could help shape some kind of re­cov­ery.

Some might ask: “What if Ver­meulen wants to help, but is be­ing barred for his out­spo­ken­ness?”

But read­ing his Tele­graph re­marks, when he says “if it hin­ders my op­por­tu­nity to be se­lected”, it’s al­ready af­ter he hadn’t been se­lected for the end-ofyear tour.

Play­ing for Toulon, he is in the great po­si­tion of not hav­ing to care what the suits think be­cause his fu­ture will be taken care of fi­nan­cially, which may have in­formed his so-be-it at­ti­tude. But lit­tle en­gines that think they can, like White­ley, can’t say the same for them­selves, so they have to keep work­ing at the prob­lem. I’d hate to drown with Ver­meulen around be­cause he’d de­scribe how choppy the wa­ter is when I need some­one to fish me out by the dread­locks. M I N F O E N T

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