Duane Vermeulen’s pending return to South Africa in preparation for the 2019 Rugby World Cup will be a boost to the Springboks and a gain for the Stormers.
Vermeulen will be integral to the Springboks’ leadership, if not necessarily as captain, then very definitely as a senior player. His ability to be equally effective at No 8 or blindside flank, adds to the potency of the Springboks loose-trio options, and most importantly is the working relationship that will exist between Vermeulen and Rassie Erasmus, the South African Rugby’s National Teams Director of Rugby.
Erasmus, in the next fortnight, will also be confirmed as leading the Springboks to the World Cup.
It was Erasmus who was instrumental in Vermeulen’s original move to Cape Town to play for Western Province and the Stormers, and it is the return of Erasmus to South Africa from Munster that has most influenced Vermeulen’s desire to be back in South Africa and part of the 2019 World Cup campaign.
Vermeulen’s 2015 World Cup was restricted to the play-offs because of long injury lay-off prior to the tournament and he was not as imposing as the previous year when he was the form No 8 in international rugby and arguably the best player in the world.
Vermeulen’s return will not reverse a trend of South African players based overseas and it should be accepted that the money markets dictate that more good players will leave South Africa to play in the European domestic leagues than will return to South Africa to play Super Rugby. Each situation should be judged on its merits.
Vermeulen is 31 years-old and post the 2019 World Cup will probably be able to command an overseas club contract to play out the final two years of his career.
For now the good news is he is primed to be in South Africa and in peak physical condition for the 2019 World Cup.
It’s a fantastic start to the year, especially when one considers the low of the Springboks 2017 season ending with defeat to Wales in Cardiff for a second successive year.