REVEALED: Why Duane Vermeulen is still good value at 35
ANALYSES: Naysayers may scoff at the suggestion, but veteran loose forward Duane Vermeulen remains a formidable force that could be invaluable to the Springboks at the World Cup in France in 2023.
The 35-year-old No.8 again proved at the weekend that he remains good value in an encounter where his experience and physical presence is required.
Despite having had only one full week of training with his new team and in only his second game, Vermeulen was a standout performer for Irish province Ulster in their 27-22 win over English Premiership outfit Northampton Saints in a European Cup Round Two match at the weekend.
Having spent a fortnight in COVID-enforced isolation, Vermeulen had one training session before the Round One match – a 29-23 away win over Clermont earlier this month.
He was praised by Ulster captain Alan O’Connor as a “class act”.
“It was great, he’s obviously an awesome player,” O’Connor said, adding: “Fair play to him, he didn’t have a lot of training time, but he gelled in pretty well and he was a calm influence on the pitch, which was class.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets on and looking forward to playing with him.”
And Vermeulen delivered in bucket loads in his second outing at the weekend – his first home game Ravenhill Stadium.
Vermeulen, with 61 Tests between his debut against Australia in 2012 and England at Twickenham last month, was one of the most productive players on the field.
His 12 carries, a match-high count, produced 49 metres.
Vermeulen also made nine tackles, won two turnovers and a line-out.
Not bad for a player who some feel may be past his sell-by date.
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He was not the only 30-plus World Cup-winning Springbok that had a good weekend.
Damian de Allende, another key player building towards France 2023, was influential in Munster’s 19-13 win over Castres.
De Allende’s eight carries were just one less than teammate Jack O’Donoghue.
However, he was far more effective – clocking a match-high 67 metres, beating six defenders and producing a great offload to boot.
De Allende, 30, has 58 caps between his Test debut against Argentina in 2014 and last month against England at Twickenham.
Other South Africans to impress this weekend were the Harlequins duo of André Esterhuizen and Tyrone Green – helping the Premiership club to a 43-17 won over Cardiff.
Green had a match-high 14 carries for 111 metres. He also beat three defenders.
Esterhuizen had seven carries for 72 metres, beat four defenders, made seven tackles and even won a turnover. He was rewarded for his efforts with a try.
Esterhuizen, 27, played the last of his eight Tests against Argentina before the World Cup in 2019.
Like the uncapped Green, he continues to send Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber regular reminders that he will not let the Springboks down.
* To add to a good weekend for the Boks, Jasper Wiese – a regular replacement for Vermeulen in internationals – made a match-high 10 carries for Leicester Tigers in their 29-23 win over Connacht.
He made 42 metres, beat two defenders and made five tackles in a game that featured fellow Springbok Marco van Staden as a second-half replacement.
Wiese, 26, has played all 11 his Tests this year – having made his debut against Georgia in July.
Van Staden, also 26, has nine caps to his credit – having made his debut against Argentina in 20128.