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Exeter explain how robbery left Vermeulen stranded in South Africa

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images )

Exeter back-rower Jacques Vermeulen will finally fly back into England this weekend after being stranded at home in South Africa following the theft of personal documents during a car break-in. The 27-year-old had flown to the southern hemisphere last month during a pre-season down week to get his passport renewed so that he could apply for the second visa needed as a South African in order to travel around Europe for the Chiefs’ European matches.


However, during his visit, Vermeulen had other documents – including the South African residency card needed to fly out of his home country – stolen and it left him unable to get get back to England for the start of the Gallagher Premiership last Saturday versus Leicester.

The stolen documents have now finally been replaced and Vermeulen is due back in Exeter this weekend with a view to being available for selection for their round three league match at home to Harlequins on September 25.

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Explaining the calamity at his media briefing on Thursday ahead of this Sunday’s game at Worcester, Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter absolved Vermeulen from any blame for what had taken place. “It’s not Jacques’ fault what happened,” he insisted about the forward who joined the Chiefs from the South African Sharks in 2019/20 and has since gone on to become a pivotal player in the pack.

“He had a current valid passport but as people involved in sport would be aware people (such as South Africans) are here on certain visas and to then move around Europe you have to get a second visa and when you apply for that second visa there are certain rules and regs involved, one of which is you have to have three clear pages in your passport.


“Jacques didn’t have that which meant he couldn’t get the second visa to travel around Europe for example for our European games. He had to get a new passport and the simplest way for him to do that was to make the application in person in South Africa, which was aligned to happen in our week off and it build in with our break and his bit of holiday time.


“Basically while waiting to pick up the new passport he had other documents stolen from a car break-in that then meant other elements had to be reapplied for, including his residency card for South Africa which he wasn’t allowed to fly without. So it has just been the process of getting the paperwork back.

“Ironically his new passport wasn’t stolen. He was able to pick that up and it wasn’t in the car, so the one thing he went over for he was able to get easily and then he had to reapply for everything else that he lost basically.

“The important thing was no one got hurt, we dealt with last week’s game and I’m pretty certain with all the conversations we have had that Jacques will come back ready to play, ready to go. We will have a good look at him this weekend when he gets back and then we will assess him for next week.”


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