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Vermuelen to start as Ulster opt for 6-2 split on bench for Clermont

By Sam Smith
Ulster No.8 Duane Vermeulen Credit: Ulster Rugby

South African World Cup winner Duane Vermeulen is set to make his delayed Ulster debut after being named in the starting team to play Clermont on Saturday at the Stade Marcel-Michelin.

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Vermeulen’s first start for Ulster was delayed after the Springbok tested positive for Covid-19.

The World Cup-winning Springbok forward was intended to link-up with his new teammates following South Africa’s autumn Tests and the Barbarians’ game with Samoa. However, the Baa-Baas match was called off 90 minutes prior to kick-off following a COVID outbreak among their playing squad and 35-year-old No.8 Vermeulen, unfortunately, tested positive.

The Springbok superstar has recovered and served his isolation period and is among five changes to the team that faced Ospreys last weekend.

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It’s a major boost for Ulster who will be relieved to have their star signing ready to roll in Europe.  The 6ft 3 inch, 115kg stone Springbok, who was crowned Player of the Match in 2019 as South Africa stormed their way to World Cup victory in Japan, is no stranger to Europe having featured for Toulon in the competition. 

Changes are also made to the front row at loosehead and hooker, with Andrew Warwick and Rob Herring packing down alongside tighthead prop Tom O’Toole.

Skipper Alan O’Connor is joined by Kieran Treadwell in the engine room.

Marcus Rea starts at blindside flanker, Nick Timoney stays at openside, and Vermeulen takes up the No.8 shirt.

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In the backs Ireland international James Hume is the sole change. John Cooney and Billy Burns retain their half-back partnership, with outside centre Hume coming in to partner Stuart McCloskey in midfield. Ethan McIlroy, Robert Baloucoune and Mike Lowry make up the back three.

Ulster have opted for a 6-2 split on the bench, with back-row Sean Reidy in line to make his 150th appearance if called upon. John Andrew, Jack McGrath, Ross Kane, Sam Carter and Greg Jones are the other forwards options, with Nathan Doak and Stewart Moore providing the back line reinforcements.

ULSTER TEAM: Mike Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, John Cooney, Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor (Capt.), Kieran Treadwell, Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.

REPLACEMENTS: John Andrew, Jack McGrath, Ross Kane, Sam Carter, Greg Jones, Sean Reidy, Nathan Doak, Stewart Moore.

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