CAPE TOWN – There is ongoing uncertainty over Duane Vermeulen’s next career move despite his confirmed departure from French club Toulon.
Last week, Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets when he revealed that the Springbok No 8 would not be leaving the club following the 2017-18 season.
“Duane is leaving because he wants to prepare for the World Cup [in Japan in 2019] – we had offered him a contract that corresponded to the amount of time he works,” Boudjellal commented with the suggestion that Vermeulen was in line for a pay cut.
'We made him a great offer but he wants to go home and his national team coach is relying on him,” Boudjellal added.
That statement led many to believe that Vermeulen was set for a return to South Africa, with the natural assumption being that he would rejoin his former team, the Stormers.
However, it’s since emerged that the influential No 8 is more likely to head to Japan after his Toulon contract ends, before then making a move back to South Africa.
Such a delay would make sense considering that Vermeulen would miss most of the 2018 Super Rugby season as he completes his commitments to Toulon, while he has already been linked to Japan club Kubota Spears.
Where it becomes more complicated is that his new Japanese club contract could prevent him from playing for the Springboks in the Rugby Championship.
According to Rapport newspaper, the Japan deal would allow Vermeulen to play in the three-Test series against England this June, and on the end-of-year tour, but he may not be released for the Rugby Championship.
New South African director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is believed to have been a strong advocate for Vermeulen to return to South Africa, and many expected the influential No 8 to be the frontrunner for the Bok captaincy.
However, Warren Whiteley may well regain the leadership reins if Vermeulen isn’t available for all of the Boks’ Test matches in 2018.
Undoubtedly, Vermeulen’s expected homecoming is good news for South African rugby, but it remains unclear just when his return date will be.
African News Agency (ANA)