Vermeulen: Where did everything go wrong?
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Veteran No.8 Duane Vermeulen has become the first player to publicly speak out about the rot that is destroying South African rugby.
While the media, including rugby365, has lambasted the administration and pointed to the 'fish rotting from the head', Vermeulen's public stance is likely to ensure the spotlight shines brighter on the retrogradation of the once proud Springboks.
This development comes a week ahead of the highly-publicised coaching indaba, which will take place in Cape Town next Wednesday and Thursday.
CEOs and coaching staff of all six Super Rugby franchises have been invited to attend the two-day event - in conjunction with Springbok coaching staff, members of the rugby department of SA Rugby, former Springbok coaches and players and a representative of MyPlayers, the players’ organisation.
The Indaba is being facilitated by former player and coach, Brendan Venter, and former Springbok team psychologist, Pieter Kruger.
Vermeulen, in an interview with the Times Media group, suggested that he does not see a 'positive outcome' unless the cause of the problem is addressed.
And he - like so many in the media - has pointed his finger at the suits in the SARU boardrooms and the government.
Vermeulen spoke out in the wake the All Blacks' record 57-15 humiliation of the Boks in Durban last week.
The 30-year-old loose forward said he is available for selection for the Bok squad for their tour of England, Italy and Wales in November, now that he is fully fit‚ but he will not commit to returning to SA because of the way the game is being run.
"I want to be part of the Boks, but the way things are going now I can't see a positive outcome‚" Vermeulen told Craig Ray of Times Media group.
"I feel it's always the coaches that have their say in a team environment and as a player, there is no time to focus and to talk about issues in SA Rugby. We tend to only focus on the game itself.
"I feel the need to speak up as a player‚ for the players. I still want to play and represent the Boks with all I have.
"But at the moment, I can't see why players would commit 100%. That's a huge problem. Where did everything go wrong?" he said.
"It was ugly watching the game on Saturday.
"We [SA] were a powerhouse in world rugby and I feel it is my duty to also make a stand and say something on the record about the situation. I don't know how much respect there is for players anymore. I feel for them and it's partially our fault because we stay silent. But it also starts at the top and we need clear and decisive leadership."
Vermeulen backs the idea of the indaba‚ but believes it has to be taken seriously and has to serve as the beginning of setting out a blueprint for all in the game in South Africa to follow - otherwise it is a futile exercise.
The Indaba will discuss current playing trends across a wide range of areas of the game and seek alignment within SA on ways to ensure excellence and continuous improvement to allow the country to remain a top rugby-playing nation.
It will also address longer-term interventions to assist the Springbok team.
"I believe that this coaching indaba is the best thing we can do right now‚" Vermeulen said.
"But I know from experience that the arrogance of some coaches in SA might be a problem because I don't believe they will share all they have.
"At this meeting, everyone must say what they want to say‚ but in the end, we have to reach a common goal about how we as South Africans want to play the game. Hopefully, from this, we will find a style that South Africans will play from junior levels all the way through to the Springboks," he said.
"Every detail from set pieces‚ attack and defence must be defined and set out in a plan, and everyone must play the same. In that way, we will improve our skills and ability.
"By doing that we will improve our coaching structures and give coaches a pathway to higher honours as well.
"It also helps develop coaches in SA, so we don't have to look overseas. If the coaches don't adhere to the agreement and principles that are set out then they should either be fined or sacked. That should be the message from SA Rugby.
"It all starts at the top. And that is chaos at the moment. By the top, I also mean the sports ministry. The sports minister has to help SA Rugby work towards a better plan for the future of the Boks. We always hear the minister is there to support us‚ but I want to see him as part of the solution."
Source: Times Media group with additional reporting from rugby365