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'I was just in a bad spot in South Africa, my contract ended...'

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Duane Vermeulen has explained the circumstances that prompted him to sign for Ulster last September while in Australia with the Springboks during the Rugby Championship. The 35-year-old World Cup winner was apparently in a state of flux at the time about his future. His deal with Jake White’s Bulls had ended and it seemed likely he was set to return to Japan where he had previously spent two seasons playing with the Kubota Spears.

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However, a call from Ireland changed everything. With Marcell Coetzee having quit Ulster for a return to the Bulls and a deal to sign Fijian Leone Nakarawa having collapsed after a medical, Dan McFarland was on the prowl for a big-name overseas signing and with the United Rugby Championship season about to get underway, he decided Vermeulen was exactly what the Irish province needed.   

Terms were agreed and by the end of November following his Autumn Nations Series campaign for the Springboks, Vermeulen flew into Belfast to begin a stay that now has him spoiling for progress to the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals. 

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WATCH as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber takes us inside his alignment camps

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WATCH as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber takes us inside his alignment camps

Defending champions Toulouse are in town on Saturday night trying to claw back a six-point round of 16 first-leg deficit and Vermeulen can’t wait to repay Ulster by helping them to get the result they need to advance to a last-eight game against either Munster or Exeter.  

Rolled out to the local media in advance of the arrival of Toulouse in Ireland, Vermeulen explained the background to the situation that brought him got Belfast in the first place. “It actually kind of shocked me as well,” he said about how he wound up in Ulster. “I was just in a bad spot in South Africa. My contract ended and I was looking at going back to Japan.

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“Then this offer came up and I sat down with my wife and said, ‘Listen, let’s do this as a family, one last Hail Mary before I retire’. I’ve been away from my family for the past seven years and people don’t realise how difficult that is. But we sat down and we said, ‘Let’s do it together, do it as a family, and when we go back we can all sit down and say this was the last step’.

“There would have been one or two (other offers) in the pipeline, but I had to make an immediate decision. I could have stayed at the Bulls, but I decided to try something else. That’s the biggest thing. I had been in South Africa, played for the Bulls, Stormers, and Cheetahs – life is about experiences as well and not just being stuck in one place. 

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“A lot of people are really comfortable doing that but I love to move around, learn a bit more. Everywhere I go I learn from different players and cultures. It’s a journey. You’ve got to love the journey. That played a major role in my decision to come here.”

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Shaylen 2 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 8 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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FEATURE Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink
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