SOUTH Africa forward Duane Vermeulen insists he does not blame compatriots Josh Strauss and WP Nel for turning their backs on the Springboks to play for Scotland.
Heyneke Meyer’s side will come face to face with the familiar faces of the newly-qualified Scots at Newcastle’s St James’ Park this afternoon.
Strauss and Nel were part of the South Africans’ training squad back in 2012 but both decided it would be easier to break into the Scotland squad than fight for a Boks berth.
And it proved a wise move, with back-rower Strauss and prop Nel handed speedy call-ups within days of meeting the three-year residency rules.
Their inclusion in Vern Cotter’s team ahead of this weekend’s World Cup meeting has, though, caused some panic in the South African camp, with Meyer admitting he had been forced to change his lineout calls in case the pair – who had both seen the Boks’ playbooks – cracked their codes.
But No 8 Vermeulen refused to criticise the tartan imports’ decision to walk away from representing the land of their births.
He said: “If you want to achieve something you have got to keep knocking on the doors.
“They knew there might have been too many guys in front of them. I don’t know where they started [with the national team], I only played against them in the Currie Cup.
“But everybody has got their own way of doing stuff and they follow their own route. If you want to go and play abroad that’s their decision. I’m not going to stand in your way and say South African rugby is the best.
“It’s your own decision and you have to live with it.”
Boks prop Tendai Mtawarira would certainly have preferred Nel had stayed at home after admitting his previous troubles with his opposing tighthead. “I’ve played against WP a few times when he was at the Cheetahs and I think he is a solid player,” said the Sharks front-rower, who is nicknamed the “Beast”.
“It certainly wasn’t all personal triumph for me in those encounters. The first time I went up against him we lost in the semi-finals of the Currie Cup in 2009. So it’s always a tough game against him.
“I think he’s done really well for himself since he moved abroad so it will be a tough challenge.
“But [today’s game] will be all about the pack. It’s not about individuals. The Scottish pack has been doing well so it will be a big challenge for us.”
A bonus-point win for Scotland would guarantee them a place in the knockout rounds but South Africa know that after losing their Pool B opener with Japan, a second defeat is almost unthinkable.
The Scots, though, seem to be taking a relaxed view of the match having named a starting XV with more than a hint of the second string to it. The insinuation from several pundits is that Cotter is resting his big-hitters ahead of facing Samoa in their final Pool B match.
But Vermeulen insists the Springboks are determined to continue their resurgence following their win over Samoa in Birmingham last weekend, regardless of the Scottish line-up.
He said: “I don’t read the papers so I don’t really know how the Scottish team look. I don’t really care about the opposition.
“It’s about the guy on the field. You go out there and it’s every man for themselves. You’ve got to go out there and play as a team.
“So I don’t really care how they are lining up. After Japan the vibe wasn’t great about the place. Everyone was down. But against Samoa we turned it around.
“However, we haven’t achieved anything yet. We are still in the same position as we were the week before.
“We still have to grind it out and this is our next step towards the World Cup.”