RC Toulon's Duane Vermeulen catches a high ball during a European Champions Cup match against Bath in December. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Boyer

CAPE TOWN – Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen appears set to leave French club Toulon at the end of the European season to make a return to South Africa and the Stormers.

According to a report in French sports daily L’Equipe, it has been confirmed that Vermeulen will be leaving Toulon after the current European season, which is set to be his third and last in France.

Vermeulen left the Stormers and Western Province in 2015 to head to France, where he quickly became an integral member of the Toulon team, while also serving as captain.

Back in 2016, the outspoken back-rower questioned where South African rugby was heading after a troubled season, but also reiterated his desire to help set things back on track.

"I had a lot of time to watch the Boks last year. I could see something was missing. The culture wasn’t right," he told SA Rugby magazine last year.

"There wasn’t enough pride in the performances. We need to get that back. We need to regain that respect for the jersey and for one another. I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way we lost that."

However, Vermeulen remained adamant that he still wanted to be part of the Bok setup, and made an important impact when he was recalled for Tests against France and Italy on the 2017 end-of-year tour.

The 31-year-old is now expected to sign a dual contract with the Stormers and SA Rugby, while many believe he will be instated as the Boks' captain this year.

New South African director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is believed to have a close working relationship with Vermeulen and to have had a key role to play in initiating his return "home".

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