After 76 tests and two World Cup winners’ medals, 37-year-old Duane Vermeulen is at the end of his Springbok road.
“Duane will forever be regarded as one of the hard men of South African rugby. He was not only a formidable force for the Springboks, but also a versatile player who was always on his feet,” Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby (Saru), said in his tribute.
Of course, highlights abound in the career of the former student of Nelspruit High School.
So along with his World Cup success – who will forget his player of the match performance in the 2019 final against England in Japan – he was also named the best player in South Africa twice in his career (2014 and 2020) .
At provincial level, Vermeulen and the late Theuns Stofberg are the only players to have held up Currie Cup silverware with three different unions.
The ratchet loose forward walked away with the provincial laurels with the Cheetahs (2007), Western Province (2012) and Blou Bulle (2020).
In this year’s World Cup tournament, he was in the Springboks’ starting team in all three of South Africa’s play-off matches.
Not bad for a player who was already thinking about possible retirement before the tournament.
“Perhaps I should have put my boots away in 2019, but the coaches convinced me to keep playing,” Vermeulen said at the time.
However, an experienced player is worth his weight in gold at a World Cup tournament – especially in a pressure cooker situation where your team wins important games by just one point.
According to Alexander, Vermeulen never liked the limelight much, but hey, he sure knew how to grab the headlines with his standout performances.
“Duane is one of those players who was never satisfied with a mediocre performance and he undoubtedly gave his best for his team. He was a leader who led South Africa in four tests, while he is also the Springbok eight-man with the most tests (68) to his name.
“He is a true legend of the game.”
- Vermeulen’s statistics:
Bending: 8 September 2012 against Australia in Perth
Last test: 28 October 2023 against New Zealand in Paris.