Duane is the man …

The big difference between the Bok side that finished the game against Samoa and the one at FNB last Saturday? Duane Vermeulen and his loose trio says Tank Lanning in his Sport24 column.

So was it a case of aggressive defense becoming an attacking weapon as part of a clinical softening of the Argentinians through playing in their half and scoring from the resultant driving mauls … Or were the men from the land of legendary steak and red wine just way off the pace?

We will know for sure after the next three games, and I will be able to report back on the steak given that I am writing this while on the plane to Mendoza, but I am going to cop out and say it was probably a mixture of the two at FNB stadium last Saturday.

There has been plenty of talk about the prowess of Fourie du Preez, and he was bloody good, but with 25 minutes to go, that Pumas side was completely blown, with the powerful Bok pack having done the damage, giving Du Preez the ride of his life. Any scrumhalf worth his salt would have shone in those circumstances.

The real heros of the day were Willem Alberts and Duane Vermeulen. Massively effective as ball carrying battering rams in the blunt force trauma approach of the first half, these guys, with Eben Etzebeth not far behind, made like bowling balls shot at skittles by Cape Town’s noon day gun. And Argentina had no answer.

It was a classic case of setting the foundations via clinical, play in the opposition half, do the basics right, defend like Trojans rugby, which the resulted in the magnificent sky scraper of the second half that was dominated by ball in hand, attacking rugby from every single Bok backline player.

Full marks to Heyneke Meyer and the Boks then?

Not wanting to be the glass is half full, party pooper, but my concern is four fold … The Pumas lost three massively influential players in Lobbe, Albecete and Hernandez either just before or during the game, they played 60 minutes of the game with 14 players due to the 2 yellow cards, they seemed not to have had a single live scrum session under the new calls before the game, and they had absolutely no defence against the driving mauls, quite obviously a key Bok weapon.

Bottom line being that while the Boks were good, and stuck to a game plan Meyer is keen to use again this Saturday given what happened in Mendoza last year, Argentina were just plain sub-standard.

For Meyer and the Bok’s sake, I hope Argentina improve immeasurably this weekend, lest they head into games against the Aussies and Kiwis severely undercooked.

So the big difference between the Bok side that finished the June quadrangular in style against Samoa and the one at FNB last weekend? Duane Vermeulen. And this in his very first game back after a severe, long term injury. He is an astonishingly good rugby player.

And while Alberts did play in that game against Samoa, he was in the throws of a come back from a long term injury at the time. Back to his best now, the loose trio of himself, Vermeulen and Francois Louw, who was yet again brilliant on the ground at FNB, are an incredible balance of skill, power, pace, and guile, and are fundamental to the Bok success.

The moment in the game last weekend that I will treasure for a very long time, though, is the one that saw Bok tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis begging his skipper to take the scrum rather than the kick at goal or for the corner. That, my friends, is what you want from your lump of granite disguised as a human being …

The Bok team for Saturday:

15. Willie le Roux, 14. Bjorn Basson, 13. JJ Engelbrecht, 12. Jean de Villiers (captain), 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Francois Louw, 5. Juandré Kruger, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Adriaan Strauss, 1. Tendai Mtawarira

Bench: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Gürthro Steenkamp, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Flip van der Merwe, 20. Siya Kolisi, 21. Jano Vermaak, 22. Patrick Lambie, 23. Jan Serfontein