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Vermeulen to crank up intensity


Duane Vermeulen, centre, expects a response from South Africa

Duane Vermeulen, centre, expects a response from South Africa

Duane Vermeulen, centre, expects a response from South Africa

Duane Vermeulen admits complacency was a factor in South Africa's loss to Ireland, but vowed intensity levels will return for Saturday's Test with England at Twickenham.

Little more than a month after beating New Zealand - ending the world champion All Blacks' 22-match unbeaten run - in the Rugby Championship, the Springboks were beaten 29-15 in Dublin.

Assistant coach John McFarland was asked if the intensity of Monday's training session was a recognition that the players lacked attitude against the Irish.

McFarland said: "We possibly were not at the levels that we had been over the Championship. We know we've got big improvements to make."

Vermeulen was less diplomatic.

The Stormers number eight said: "After beating New Zealand you kind of feel like, 'Hey this is where we're supposed to be'.

"You've got to pitch up every single weekend. You can't beat the world number one and then think you're invincible.

"Hopefully we can come back, play the rugby we want to play and to produce."

Vermeulen admits his performance was below-par, having been spoken of alongside New Zealand's Kieran Read as the world's best number eight in 2014.

"I wasn't great," added Vermeulen, who tried to accentuate the positives.

"It's nice to learn how you get knocked off your high horse and you've got to fight your way back.

"Every single game is a learning curve for each and every single player.

"There's always stuff to work on. You always want to be the best.

"(And) when you're up there you've got to bloody work hard to stay there.

"I still have a lot of goals that I want to reach, but I think we're on the right track. I've just got to keep working."

Vermeulen's "high-horse" metaphor could be applied to the team, and England should be wary.

Asked if Ireland pointed England to South Africa's flaws, McFarland added: "We know we can play a lot better than we did on Saturday. It's up to the England coaches to decide what's good for their team this weekend.

"Maybe they've got different personnel. Maybe if they play (Bath fly-half George) Ford it will be different type of game, they'll be a different type of team.

"I wouldn't tell them how to play their game."

An improved defensive display is of paramount importance.

Vermeulen added: "We want to get a team down to under 13 or 15 points a match. That's our challenge and we couldn't do that.

"The English have a good attacking threat. They play good rugby. Hopefully we can keep them down in that 15-point margin."

If you concede fewer than 15 points, there is a high chance you will win the Test match, according to the Springboks.

McFarland added: "We've looked at the average amount that a team concedes over a year. If you concede less than 15, you've got a good chance of winning a Test match. Statistically everyone's around that level.

"(But) there's no point in conceding no tries and six penalties. If you get around that, you'll win Test matches."

Indeed, penalties can be decisive, particularly as the likes of Ireland's Jonny Sexton and Owen Farrell of England rarely err in front of the posts.

"We need to be more disciplined," McFarland added.

"The kickers, from Farrell to Sexton, all kick at 100 per cent. You've got to be right on the money in terms of your discipline."

The match is a useful warm-up for the Springboks ahead of next year's World Cup, not just because of the opposition, but also due to the venue.

Belfast-born McFarland, who worked under Clive Woodward at London Irish before moving to South Africa in 2000, expects the Springboks to be back to their best at Twickenham, from the first whistle.

McFarland added: "There's a need for us to really come out and put our physicality on the game in that first 20 minutes on Saturday."