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Erasmus explains decision to axe Vermeulen for Springboks tour

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Duane Vermeulen was the big-name casualty when the Springboks confirmed their European tour squad on Friday, the veteran No8 being excluded from the 35-man selection just 34 days after winning his 65th cap in The Rugby Championship win over Argentina in Durban.

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The 36-year-old played four times in the recent six-game tournament, starting matches in August against the All Blacks and the Wallabies before switching to the bench for the September encounters with Australia and the Pumas.

However, he now finds himself surplus to requirements eleven months before the Springboks launch the defence of the World Cup title they won in 2019 when Vermeulen was voted man of the match in the final versus England in Yokohama.

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Vermeulen wasn’t the only seasoned pick not to make the tour. Frans Steyn was also omitted but he was left out due to a knee injury – unlike Vermeulen who is fit and is packing down this Saturday for Ulster in their URC match against Munster in Limerick.

“Even if Frans Steyn were fit, he wouldn’t have been selected for this (tour),” explained Rassie Erasmus, the South African director of rugby, after 54 players – 35 senior team picks and another 19 in the A team – were named for the trip that will feature four Test games and two reserve matches against club sides.

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“We always had a plan during The Rugby Championship and what we tried to achieve there. Some of the guys are getting older in the legs but might still make it to the World Cup. We have seen enough and know their commitment. We believe a guy like Duane doesn’t need any more experience.

“This tour is the perfect opportunity to see how some of the other youngsters can cope with the challenge of playing against the No1 ranked team [Ireland] one year before the World Cup. Duane is well-managed at Ulster and we don’t feel he needs to be here. The other guys are pushing really hard and that is why we have included them.”

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