Springboks star Duane Vermeulen leaves Bulls, joins Ulster for United Rugby Championship
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CAPE TOWN – He quickly became a stalwart for the Bulls, and now Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen will begin a new journey in his storied rugby career at Ulster in Northern Ireland.
The 35-year-old loose forward was announced as a new signing by the Belfast-based club on Thursday, and will join the squad at the end of the Boks’ November tour to Europe.
Vermeulen signed for the Bulls in 2020, and led the team to last season’s Currie Cup title. He sustained a serious ankle injury earlier this year that kept him out of the Rainbow Cup, but returned to the pitch for the Boks against Argentina a few weeks ago, and he is currently in Australia for the Rugby Championship.
His deal with the Bulls was coming to an end in October, and while director of rugby Jake White was keen to keep him in Pretoria, Vermeulen opted to go back to Europe, where he had previously starred for Toulon in France.
He had been living in Pretoria while the Bulls played in competitions, with his wife and children staying in Cape Town, so perhaps being together in Belfast played a role in his decision to join Ulster, where he has signed a two-year deal that will keep him playing out of Kingspan Stadium until 2023.
The club have had some big-name Springboks before, including prop BJ Botha, scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar and most recently loose forward Marcell Coetzee, who is the current Bulls captain.
“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,” Vermeulen told the Ulster website on Thursday.
Ulster coach Dan McFarland added: “Duane is clearly a world class player who, as the current World Champions’ starting 8 and MVP from the last RWC Final, 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.”
Vermeulen could face the Bulls in the United Rugby Championship, with Ulster scheduled to turn out at Loftus Versfeld in April next year.