Six former players on what should be done about Duane Vermeulen's trip to Toulon, and whether WP Rugby is using the episode to cover up the Stormers' poor season.
ADRIAN JACOBS (former Bok and Sharks centre)
‘I think Duane should have to apologise to the coach. The coach always needs to be aware of his players’ whereabouts, he needs to be able to cover for them. Professional players need to be disciplined, and stay within their structures. WP Rugby needs to learn from it, Duane should have known what he was doing was wrong. Something could have happened to him and that would have left Allister Coetzee in the dark. Disciplining Duane now wouldn’t achieve much, but it’s important to make sure the new guys who come in know that there is a certain way to act as a professional. It was obviously disappointing that the Stormers never reached the semis, but I don’t think they’re using it [Duane’s behaviour] as an excuse or to draw away attention. They’re a well-equipped side, it was an isolated incident, and the union must just make sure it doesn’t happen again.’
KOBUS WIESE (former Bok and Lions lock)
‘He doesn’t have to apologise for the move at all, but he should maybe apologise for the timing of his trip, he could have been more sensitive about that. It’s daft to discipline him, though, as he’s been one of the union's best and most reliable servants for ages, as well as one of the best No 8s in the world. It’s unfair that he can be vilified for one judgement error after everything he’s done for WP and the Stormers. It would be unfair of me to make the judgement [that WP management are using the story to deflect attention from their poor season] but it’s unnecessary to drag it out. The issue should be put to bed, and it should be remembered that 99% of the time Duane made a huge contribution to the union.’
ROBBIE KEMPSON (former Bok and Stormers prop)
‘I do think he should apologise, because it’s inappropriate that a player, who’s contracted to a side, disappears in the week leading up to an important play-off game regardless of whether they’re playing or not. Loyalty and respect to the team and coaching staff should be shown, although I don’t think it was entirely his fault. As I understand it wasn’t meant to be a media event in the first place. There should be some sort of disciplinary action, since you don’t want to set a precedent for other players down the line. So regardless of him being a top-class player as well as a top-class man, you don’t want this behaviour to translate onto the other, maybe less elite, players with them being able to point to this incident. Gert Smal is definitely not the kind of guy to deflect attention, they know about their errors, and are just following due process.’
GARRY PAGEL (former Bok and WP prop)
'Duane is a phenomenal player, but he should have had the decency to inform Allister Coetzee and the Stormers management about his planned trip to Toulon. Not only did he let down the union who've done so much for him, but he also disappointed the Cape public who've embraced and adore him. In saying that, I believe his story that he was lured to France under the pretence of just having to undergo a medical. After explaining the situation to WP's director of rugby Gert Smal, they should have taken his word for it. I don't see why he had to apologise to the entire squad and I certainly don't understand why they feel the need to take further disciplinary action against him, when he won't play for the union again. He was unfit to play against the Brumbies, so this trip had no impact on the outcome of the match. Duane's error in judgement should not be used as an excuse for his side's failure to progress into the semi-finals.'
WERNER SWANEPOEL (former Bok and Bulls scrumhalf)
'Duane is contracted to the union and therefore had to adhere to the rules and regulations. His failure to do so left a bitter taste in the mouths of the South African rugby public, because he is the Springboks' most-prized asset. However, the saga is being blown out of proportion with the unnecessary apology and internal disciplinary action. If the Stormers had defeated the Brumbies at Newlands, Duane's behaviour would have been an afterthought in Cape Town, while the focus would've been on his availability for the semi-final this week. Duane got his timing all wrong, but he is not to blame for the Stormers' loss.'
ROB LOUW (former Bok and WP flank)
'I'm a big fan of Vermeulen, who is one of the few shining lights in South African rugby. Apologising to his teammates even though it was needless, just shows the class of the man. He has done so much for WP and the Stormers and we should be thankful for his services. This thing of disciplining him for going to Toulon without consent is a bit too much. Why couldn't they just discipline him internally without telling the world about it. It looks like they are trying to make him the scapegoat and that should not be the case. I worry about the state of Western Province rugby.'