Duane Vermeulen has been excellent for the Springboks against England. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN - South Africa number eight Duane Vermeulen has signed to play for Japanese side Kubota Spears, the club has confirmed.

Vermeulen was a stand-out performer for the Springboks in their 2-1 home series victory over England this month but said after the final test that he would not be available for the Rugby Championship against New Zealand, Australia and Argentina. He is, however, expected to play an important role in South Africa's build up to the World Cup and at the tournament itself.

Vermeulen joins a Spears side that is coached by compatriot Frans Ludeke and has a number of other South Africans on their books. South Africans in the squad include Gerhard van den Heerver, Burger Odendaal, Jean Droste, Ruan Botha and Lappies Labuschagne 

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus has said he was planning for the Rugby Championship without Vermeulen and is pinning his hopes at the back of the scrum on fit-again Warren Whiteley. The former national team captain is returning from long-term injury for his Super Rugby side the Lions against the Sharks on Saturday.

Vermeulen, 31, recently ended a three-year stay with French Top 14 side Toulon and has also played in Super Rugby for the Stormers and Cheetahs. He currently has 42 Springbok caps to his name.

Kubota Spears play in the city of Funabashi in the Chiba prtefecture and play in the Japanese Top League. Tney have never won the league, with Suntory Sungoliath winning the last two titles and the Panasonic Wild Knights winning the previous three.  

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