Duane Vermeulen, the Bulls shine at SA Rugby Awards

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Springbok eighth-man, Duane Vermeulen, has been named SA Rugby Player of the Year. His teammates, Cornal Hendricks and Stedman Gans capped a brilliant season for the Bulls by walking away with the Carling Currie Cup Player of the Year and Springbok Sevens Player of the Year Awards.

Wandisile Simelane of the Lions was named Young Player of the Year.

The Bulls had a host of names on the shortlist of the different categories. This follows their phenomenal run since rugby resumed after being halted by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Bulls Captain, Duane Vermeulen walked off with two awards. He was named the SA Rugby Player of the Year for 2020 and the Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked Player of the Year Award.

The 34-year-old led the Bulls to two titles, including the Carling Currie Cup for the first time since 2009. Vermeulen beat Curwin Bosch, Cornal Hendricks, Steven Kitshoff and Frans Steyn for top award. He says his competitors also showed their class.

“In a way I kind of feel for every single player out there. We didn’t have a lot of international rugby but there are some guys in the grouping who showed their class. Curwin had a fantastic tournament. I think pressure got the better of him in the final but he handled himself very well. he’s still a young guy, he will learn going forward.”

The Bulls were named Team of the Year and their Director of Rugby, Jake White, walked away with the Coach of the Year accolade.

The Pretoria-based franchise won the Super Rugby Unlocked in November, following a brilliant run in the competition, topping the standings of the seven-week round-robin tournament.

And just over a month ago, they lifted the Currie Cup trophy, beating the Sharks in the final. After the on-going Preparation Series, four of South African franchises the Bulls, Sharks, Lions and Stormers will hopefully compete in the Rainbow Cup against European pro rugby teams.

However, what is worrisome for the Springbok players is whether the British and Irish Lions series will take place in South Africa this year as planned or not.

But Vermeulen remains optimistic. “Obviously, we would like to have the British and Irish Lions in South Africa. You only get them every 12 years, but I think for our economy, the masses of people who come to South Africa, spending some pounds in South Africa for the wine farms. Obviously, for our economy, tourism and things like that, we are trying to adapt to all the scenarios the pandemic has thrown at us.”

If the British and Irish Lions series goes ahead Vermeulen believes that the Springboks would need to have a couple of games to gauge the players on all fronts.

“In a Springbok setup, it is different from playing for your franchise. I think if we ever have the opportunity to play one or two games, warm-up games, that would be beneficial for the squad and the team.”

Vermeulen and the Bulls will next be in action away against the Pumas on Wednesday in the Preparation Series.