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Duane Vermeulen focused on mind games ahead of World Cup semi-final

Published 20/10/2015

Duane Vermeulen has called on South Africa to win the mental battle against New Zealand
Duane Vermeulen has called on South Africa to win the mental battle against New Zealand

Duane Vermeulen believes South Africa's World Cup semi-final with New Zealand will hinge on little more than mind games.

The bruising number eight was hailed "a machine" by Springboks team-mate Tendai Mtawarira, but insisted mind will count for more than matter at Twickenham on Saturday.

Vermeulen beat serious neck trouble just in time to spearhead the physical pack work in South Africa's World Cup assault, but warned his side that simple blunt force would not overwhelm the defending champions.

The last three clashes between South Africa and New Zealand have turned on one single score, and Vermeulen revealed the Springboks will spend extra time with psychologist Pieter Kruger this week.

"I think this week is all mental," said Vermeulen. " We know exactly how New Zealand play and they know how we play.

"The coaches have already sorted out the way they want to attack and defend and what plays they want.

"So as a player in the squad it definitely just comes down to mental preparation, how you get yourself ready for Saturday.

"You see the body language of the guys, are you down the slope or happy where you are.

"If you're not happy or right then you get to sit with Pieter (Kruger), and he'll put you in the right direction, of preparing yourself, either as an individual or in the squad, to do your bit when needed, and just to keep quiet when nothing else is needed.

"It's not really mental exercises.

"In front of the group as a whole he gives us a couple of bits of stuff.

"The first couple of games in the Rugby Championship we played this season there was a tense part between 50 to 70 minutes, 20 minutes where we struggled to get points.

"He showed that to us and after that, you've just really (got) to see it and get that little bit of a mind shift.

"Suddenly you cannot score tries but you can still score points and build that scoreboard pressure, to put yourself ahead or when you are behind you can keep the boxes ticking.

"We know so much about each other that there's not really a lot to hide.

"They can always offer something extra, the special moments that turn a game - but we'll be ready."

Springboks prop Mtawarira - nicknamed The Beast - hailed Vermeulen's own stand-out aggression, and backed the loose-forward to make a punishing impression against the All Blacks.

"Duane is a machine, that's what we all like to call him, Jean de Villiers even said it before the tournament started," said Mtawarira.

"We don't need to look anywhere else for inspiration, we've got guys within the team that really inspire us and Duane is definitely one of those figures who inspires all of us by the way he leads on the field.

"So we just have to follow behind and make sure we're right behind him when he's putting his body on the line."

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