Duane Vermeulen’s journey to become the greatest Springbok No 8 of all time is a powerful story of patience and perseverance, writes MARK KEOHANE.
Nicknamed ‘Thor’ for his physical strength and likeness to the Norse god, the 37-year-old Vermeulen on Wednesday announced his retirement from professional rugby, after an 18-year career that culminated in back-to-back World Cup titles.
Writing for TimesLIVE, Keohane emphasises that the lesson for aspiring players from Vermeulen’s rise to the top echelons of the sport is his resilience, having only made his Test debut in 2012 after seven standout seasons with the Pumas, Cheetahs, DHL Stormers and Western Province.
He argues that the former Toulon and Ulster star’s later dominance demonstrates the value of grit and maturity, and urges rugby enthusiasts to appreciate the impact of seasoned players.
Keohane also suggests that Vermeulen’s collaboration with Bok coaches Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber were “the best and most influential years” of his illustrious vocation that included three World Cup appearances.
“Vermeulen’s performances for the Springboks, and every team he represented, are an inspiration, but it is his journey and his patience that is the greatest inspiration to the generation of big ball-carrying No 8s who will challenge each other to be Vermeulen’s successor,” Keohane writes.
“Thor’s international career dominance started in 2014, nearly a decade after his debut, and he is an example of the finest wines needing to mature. But in the years 2005 to 2013, he was deemed just another of the many talented loose forwards in South Africa who was not a Springbok.
“There is one hell of a rugby lesson in that and one to remember when judging the next generation of No 8s over the next decade.”
Photo: Marco Longari/AFP