South African flank Jacques Vermuelen has emerged as a key performer for Exeter Chiefs in England, writes PETROS AUGOUSTI.
In a snippet from our latest magazine, we chatted to the former Sharks and Junior Springbok flank about his move overseas and his dreams for a national call-up after making an immediate impact at his English club.
How did your move to the Chiefs come about?
I was contacted by Exeter and they set up a video call with [director of rugby] Rob Baxter. I was super excited because I have always wanted to play overseas. It was funny because it felt like the video call was a job interview. We spoke about the values of the club and what it takes on all levels to be an Exeter Chiefs player. We spoke about how the boys over here value you as a person and how serious it is to play under the team’s value system.
You watched the World Cup final with your teammates after a training session. How did they react?
Obviously, the English lads were disappointed as England had done well on their way to the final and losing hurt the boys. They are just as passionate as us South Africans. But to their credit everyone congratulated Jannes Kirsten [the former Bulls lock] and me after the game … they were really happy for us. That is what I mean about the team values. The boys genuinely care about each other, we look after each other. My favourite part about the final was Siya lifting the cup. I had such a warm feeling in my heart. Damn I was a proud South African that day.
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What are your thoughts on a national call-up?
While it is my dream to play for my country, for now all I can do is just focus on becoming a better rugby player. I have great memories of representing the Baby Boks many times, and to step up to the national team will be a dream come true. There are world-class players in the Bok team in my position, with Siya Kolisi and Pieter Steph du Toit among the best players in the world. There is also plenty of depth in that position but if I keep working hard and playing well then anything is possible.
Speaking of Paarl, are you missing the sleepy old town?
I am missing my family in Paarl. We are extremely close … my parents, especially my mom, follows all my games here in England, streaming them, reading every story on the internet and I miss her bubbly personality. I miss the friendly people of Paarl. I miss a good braai with my family and friends the most and a coke light or three. I miss watching Interschools – I remember my games against Paarl Boys like it was yesterday; we had a great team in 2012 and 2013 and those games will always remain among the highlights of my life.