Ulster sign Springbok World Cup-winning forward | Sunday Observer

Ulster sign Springbok World Cup-winning forward

19 September, 2021
Duane Vermeulen
Duane Vermeulen

Ulster have signed South African World Cup-winning back-row forward Duane Vermeulen, who will join the club following the autumn Tests in November.

Vermeulen, 35, has signed a deal to play for the Irish province until 2023.

In 2019, Vermeulen was named player of the match as South Africa stormed their way to World Cup victory, lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy by beating England.

“On the park, he’ll definitely deliver without a doubt,” said his compatriot and ex-Ulster captain Johann Muller.

Speaking to BBC Sport Northern Ireland, Muller added: “Getting another World Cup winner into that Ulster set-up, the player that he is, the leader that he is, the experience that he brings to Ulster….it’s a phenomenal signing.

“He’s 35 but I’ll tell you what, his body is still in great nick. I honestly believe he can play for the next two or three years without any concerns.

“He’s a tough character. He’s going to bring a lot to the coaching staff. He’s going to challenge everybody to be better and to bring the best out of everybody.”

The acquisition of Vermeulen as a replacement for his departed compatriot Marcell Coetzee will be regarded as a major coup for Ulster.

Muller added: “Obviously losing Marcell Coetzee was a bad one for Ulster but I think Duane will step into those shoes on and off the pitch.”

The 35-year-old brings with him experience gained from playing in both Super Rugby and the Top 14.

The 6ft 4in 18 stone forward has been capped 54 times by the Springboks but missed the recent Test series against the British and Irish Lions through injury.

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland said: “Duane is clearly a world class player who, as the current world champions’ starting number eight, is set to bring depth and experience to our really talented group of back-rowers.

“As well as being an undeniable talent on the pitch, I know Duane will play an important role going forward in strengthening the winning mindset we are building as a squad.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to recognise Bryn Cunningham’s brilliant work in orchestrating this deal from start to finish. It was always going to be a difficult ask to find a difference-making eight but Bryn has definitely achieved that.”

Vermeulen commented: “Ulster and myself had detailed discussions about the club’s values, expectations and the potential role I can play going forward.

“It appealed and resonated with me to a point where I got very excited and decided to commit myself to this Ulster journey. I cannot wait to become part of the Ulster family and to serve as best I can.”

Ulster have been actively seeking a world class addition to the squad following the planned deal with Leone Nakarawa falling through in June. (BBC Sport)