There is just a single Duane Vermeulen… A legendary Springbok ends his playing career
Duane Vermeulen, maybe the finest No 8 in Springbok history, has, as was to be expected, called it quits on his illustrious international career while wearing the green and gold.
During the course of his remarkable 11-season Springbok career, the 37-year-old Vermeulen started 76 Tests while wearing the No. 8 shirt and scored three tries.
From Mbombela in Mpumalanga, Vermeulen made his Test debut under Heyneke Meyer against Australia in Perth in 2012. He played his last match for his country, winning his second winners’ medal, against the All Blacks in the 2023 Rugby World Cup final in Paris.
Vermeulen also won the SA Rugby Player of the Year Award twice (2014 and ’20), along with an elite club of only five players who have won the award more than once since the advent of professionalism: Schalk Burger (2004, ’11), Bryan Habana (2005, ’07, ’12), Fourie du Preez (2006, ’09), Jean de Villiers (2008, ’13) and Pieter-Steph du Toit (2016, ’18, ’19).
At provincial level, Vermeulen and the late Springbok loose forward Theuns Stofberg are the only players who have won the Currie Cup with three different unions, when he lifted the coveted gold trophy with the Cheetahs (2007), Western Province (2012) and Bulls (2020).
“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,” said SA Rugby president Mark Alexander.
“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.
“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.”
Vermeulen made his senior provincial debut for the Pumas in 2005, the year after he matriculated from Hoërskool Nelspruit. Despite being courted by the Bulls, he opted to remain loyal to the Mpumalanga-based union, skipping the junior ranks.
Prior to being enticed to Bloemfontein by current SA Rugby director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, who was still the Free Staters’ head coach, Vermeulen played for the Pumas in 2005 and 2006. Two months before turning twenty-one, in 2007, he made his Vodacom Super Rugby debut.
He played for the Stormers and Western Province in Cape Town after moving there in 2009 to join Erasmus and previous head coach Jacques Nienaber. He had his first taste of international rugby the same year, when he was picked to play for the Emerging Springboks in the Mother City against the British & Irish Lions on tour (he also played against the Lions for WP during the same series).
He was a member of the initial Springbok training group in 2010 in anticipation of the year-end trip, but it wasn’t until two years later that he made his Test debut due to injury setbacks that prevented him from being considered for selection for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
Vermeulen has participated in international club rugby, having played for the Kubota Spears in Japan (2018–2020), Ulster in Ireland (2021–2023), and Toulon in France (2015–2018).
“Duane left a huge impression everywhere he went, and judging by his global accomplishments, it’s evident that he was not just a legendary Springbok but also an excellent representative for South Africa,” Alexander continued.
As his playing career draws to a conclusion, I would like to congratulate Duane on behalf of the whole South African rugby family for his unselfish dedication to his nation, the Springboks, and his provincial unions. I know he still has a lot to offer back to our magnificent game.
“I hope the best for him, his wife Ezel, and their two sons, Anru and Zian, in the future.”