Bok great Vermeulen announces his retirement

football08 November 2023 11:05| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
article image
Duane Vermeulen © Gallo Images

Springbok great Duane Vermeulen - double Rugby World Cup winner and all-round hard man - announced his retirement at the age of 37 on Wednesday.

Vermeulen, who started his career at the Pumas and played for a number of rugby sides, including the Stormers and the Bulls, became a Springbok late in his career, but still managed to play 76 tests for the Boks and won the World Cup in 2019 and 2023, ranking among the best No 8s in test history.

Vermeulen twice won the SA Rugby Player of the Year - in 2014 and 2020 - and could easily have come close to the 100-test mark were it not for injuries. He is the most-capped Springbok No 8 in history, having started 68 of his tests in the eight jersey.

His Player of the Year awards put him in 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).

While he has many highlights, including a British and Irish Lions tour win in 2021, one of the classic Vermeulen moments was the back-flip pass for Fourie du Preez to score and beat Wales in the 2015 World Cup quarterfinal.

He was also the man of the match in the 2019 World Cup final, where he was incredible and racked up stats including 10 carries, making 49 metres (both the most in the match) and two turnovers.

Vermeulen made his debut way back in 2012 when given the chance by Heyneke Meyer and ended it 11 seasons later against New Zealand in the World Cup final in Paris.

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).


SA Rugby President Mark Alexander paid homage to Vermeulen in his announcement.

“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,” said Mr Alexander.

“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.”


He never represented South Africa at junior level, but made his debut for the Pumas on 5 August 2005 in a Currie Cup clash against the Border Bulldogs, just a month and two days after turning 19.

Vermeulen played for the Pumas in 2005 and 2006 before he was lured to Bloemfontein by SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, who was then still head coach of the Free Staters. He made his Vodacom Super Rugby debut in 2007, two months before he turned 21.

In 2009, he followed Erasmus and Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber to Cape Town, where he played for DHL Western Province and the Stormers. In the same year, he got his first taste of international rugby when he was selected for the Emerging Springboks against the touring British & Irish Lions in the Mother City (he also faced the Lions for DHL WP during the same series).

In 2010, he was included in a preliminary Springbok training squad as part of the preparation for the end-of-year tour, but he only made his test debut two years later after struggling with injuries, which saw him miss out on possible selection for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Vermeulen also played for Toulon in France, Kubota Spears in Japan and Ulster in Ireland.


“Duane made a massive impression wherever he went, and looking at his achievements all over the world, it’s clear that he was not only a Springbok great, but a superb ambassador for South Africa,” added Mr Alexander.

“I know Duane still has a lot to give back to our wonderful game, but as his playing career comes to an end, on behalf of the entire South African rugby family, I would like to thank Duane for his selfless service to his country and the Springboks, as well as his provincial unions.

"I would like to wish him, his wife, Ezel, and their two sons, Anru and Zian, the best for their future.”