One of SA rugby’s longest and worst-kept secrets has finally been revealed. Cheetahs loose forward Duane Vermeulen will play for the Stormer and Western Province next season.
Daniel Johannes Vermeulen, born and bred in Nelspruit, first made a name for himself playing for the unfancied Mpumulanga Pumas, before being snapped up by Free State in 2007. He quickly established himself as a key member of an outstanding loose trio, together with Bok Juan Smith and the highly-talented Heinrich Brüssow. Speculation about the 22-year-old’s future has been rife, since he turned down offers from both the Cheetahs and the Sharks earlier this year.
Stormers boss Rassie Erasmus has confirmed that Vermeulen has been signed as a specialist number 8 and that he will, injury and form allowing, be the Stormers’ first choice in this position in 2009. This presumably draws a line under controversial Luke Watson’s first team involvement in Cape Town, hardly surprising given his recent dilemma. The most likely courses of action open to Watson now would be either a move overseas, or perhaps a stint back with Eastern Province, where his old man looks set to take over the running of the perennially sinking ship that is the Mighty Elephants.
The acquisition of Vermeulen really does nicely round out the loose forward option available to Erasmus. Schalk Burger and the impressive young Pieter Myburgh (and Watson, of he stays) provide ample openside options, while Vermeulen, Francois Louw and Nick Koster will slug it out for the other two jerseys. Let’s not forget that AJ Venter and Hilton Lobberts are both also in the mix, with Pieter Louw, Conraad Britz and even Justin Melck providing further options. In fact, WP’s biggest problem now will (as always) be persuading their young talent to stay in the system, rather than seeking opportunities elsewhere.
I’ll bet the Natal chequebooks, in particular, will be waved very enticingly under Koster’s nose…Tweet