Home Sport Duane Vermeulen saluted as ‘a true legend’ as Test career ends

Duane Vermeulen saluted as ‘a true legend’ as Test career ends

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Vermeulen turned back the clock and proved them wrong as he played an influential role in the Boks’ triumph in France.

Springbok Duane Vermeulen has reached the end of his Test career. Picture: Neal Simpson, Shutterstock (14088380cb)

THE CURTAIN has fallen on an incredible Test career for Springbok strongman Duane Vermeulen, and what a way to finish his stint of 76 matches, by winning the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

At 37, Vermeulen had one last hurrah with the Boks as they defended their title successfully in France, with the veteran becoming one of a select few men’s rugby players to boast back-to-back gold medals at the tournament.

Plenty of pundits did not expect the former Pumas, Cheetahs, Stormers, Western Province, Toulon, Kubota Spears, Bulls and Ulster player to make it to the tournament, especially after missing out on some international action last year.

But Vermeulen turned back the clock and proved them wrong as he played an influential role in the Boks’ triumph in France.

On Wednesday, SA Rugby paid tribute to the legend who will arguably go down as South Africa’s greatest No.8 in history.

He should’ve played in more Tests, but due to the Springboks’ loose forward-producing factory and a couple of untimely injuries, he had to wait until 2012 for his debut.

This was after he played for the Emerging Springboks in 2009, helping them to a 13-13 draw against the touring British & Irish Lions at Newlands.

It was in Cape Town under Rassie Erasmus where Vermeulen found his feet on the international scene. And his Test career has come full circle, ending under Erasmus and outgoing Bok head coach Jacques Nienaber.

“Duane will forever be regarded as one of the real hard men of South African rugby – he was not only a formidable force for the Springboks, but also a multifaceted player who consistently delivered his best,” SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said.

Vermeulen, who made his Test debut in 2012 against Australia in Perth, won the SA Rugby Player of the Year award twice, in 2014 and 2020, and is among an elite group of players to have won it more than once. They include Schalk Burger (2004, 2011), Bryan Habana (2005, 2007, 2012), Fourie du Preez (2006, 2009), Jean de Villiers (2008, 2013) and Pieter-Steph du Toit (2016, 2018, 2019).

The Mbombela-born loose forward is also only the second player, after Theuns Stofberg, to win the Currie Cup with three different provincial unions, hoisting the golden trophy with the Cheetahs, WP and Bulls.

“As someone who preferred to operate away from the limelight, Duane was one of those players who never settled for second best, and always gave everything he had to his team,” Alexander said.

“He was a leader who captained South Africa in four Tests, but he also retired as the most-capped Springbok No.8 with two Rugby World Cup winners’ medals – a wonderful achievement for a player who will be remembered as a true legend of the sport.

“Duane made a massive impression wherever he went, and looking at his achievements all over the world, it’s clear that he was not only a Springbok great, but a superb ambassador for South Africa,” added Alexander.

“I know Duane still has a lot to give back to our wonderful game, but as his playing career comes to an end, on behalf of the entire South African rugby family, I would like to thank Duane for his selfless service to his country and the Springboks, as well as his provincial unions.

“I would like to wish him, his wife Ezel and their two sons, Anru and Zian, the best for their future.”

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