Duane Vermeulen. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/SHAUN ROY
Duane Vermeulen. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/SHAUN ROY

Omaezaki — Not long ago Duane Vermeulen and Sergio Parisse would probably have been ranked among the top three No 8s in the world.

Father Time‚ however‚ is a bugger and as he lengthens his shadow‚ particularly over the wonderfully gifted Parisse‚ the sheer impact he had over proceedings is now less keenly felt.

Still‚ Vermeulen paid tribute to a player campaigning in his fifth Rugby World Cup desperate to lead his team out of the pool stages for the first time.

Vermeulen played down his confrontation with the Italian legend.

“You want to beat your opposing player but also the team. I want to do what has been set out for me to do.

“He is a stalwart for their team‚ he is a fantastic player playing in his fifth World Cup. That is actually a massive achievement for a man I look up to and have played against a couple of times‚” said Vermeuelen.

One of them is likely to take the heat from the opposition if one pack dominates the other. That comes with the territory when you have the No 8 on your back.

Parisse has done the pick-and-go routine behind a retreating pack more times than he would care to remember in his 141 Tests.

Incredibly, Parisse has started in 138 of those Tests‚ a clear indication of how he has dominated the Italian rugby landscape since 2002.

Vermeulen of course has also been a player of enduring quality for the Springboks. He played his 50th Test in the Boks’ World Cup opener against the All Blacks in Yokohama. While Parisse’s influence is on the recede‚ Vermeulen has had to assume a leadership role with the Boks.

As regular Bok captain Siya Kolisi was being nursed back to full fitness Vermeulen had to take the reins.

He takes charge of a lot of the on-the-field proceedings, but Kolisi is back in the starting line-up for Friday’s must-win clash against Italy in Shizuoka.

Kolisi is less vocal but he remains the point man when the Boks need clarification from the referee.

The Boks tend to do things by committee now with different players taking responsibility for different areas of the game.

Time will tell whether that sort of of devolution of power makes for a stronger collective.