South African rugby legend Duane Vermeulen recently bid farewell to the international stage, bringing an illustrious career to a close. The burly forward, known for his immense physicality and exceptional skills, leaves behind a legacy that will be cherished by rugby fans for generations to come.
Vermeulen, who hails from Mbombela in Mpumalanga, made his Test debut against Australia in Perth in 2012 and concluded his international journey in the 2023 Rugby World Cup Final against New Zealand in Paris.
He 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 Toyota Cheetahs (2007), DHL Western Province (2012) and Vodacom Bulls (2020).
His ability to dominate opponents with his powerful ball-carrying and ferocious tackling quickly made him a fan favourite. Over the years, he became a cornerstone of the South African team, earning numerous accolades and contributing significantly to the Springboks’ successes.
The two key defining moments of Duane Vermeulen’s career was his pivotal role in South Africa’s triumphs at the 2019 and 2023 Rugby World Cup. He was an integral part of a dominant Springbok side that secured their third World Cup title. Vermeulen’s leadership on and off the field, as well as his relentless work rate, helped South Africa achieve victory in Japan and France. His memorable performance in the 2019 final against England showcased his immense influence, and he was widely recognized as one of the tournament’s standout players.
Speaking about Vermeulen’s impact on South African Rugby, SARU President Mark Alexander said, “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.
“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’s decision to retire from international rugby marks the end of an era for South African rugby. He will be remembered as a true icon of the game, a player who led by example and always gave his all for the Springbok jersey. His two Rugby World Cup titles and his extensive list of accomplishments will forever be etched in the annals of South African rugby history, and his legacy will continue to inspire future generations of players.