The news everyone knew was coming was confirmed last week when Duane Vermeulen announced his retirement from rugby.
It has been a quite remarkable career for the now 37-year-old, having won numerous titles including two World Cups, to be regarded, surely, as the greatest No 8 to play for South Africa.
It has been interesting how in the wake of the news of his retirement questions were asked about where Vermeulen stood in the SA eighthman queue.
For me there is no debate; Vermeulen is top of the pile, and by some margin.
He excelled as a powerhouse loose forward from the very beginning, moving from the Pumas to the Cheetahs and then to Western Province and the Stormers, and ultimately the Springboks. And later played for Toulon in France, Kubota Spears in Japan and then the Bulls, and finally Ulster in Ireland.
Being selected by the country’s media as SA Player of the Year on two occasions, in 2014 and 2020, is proof that Vermeulen has had a major impact on rugby in the country and internationally.
Some players have “it” … whatever that is, and Vermeulen has “it”.
Whenever he wore the No 8 jumper one felt calm and assured the Boks would be fine, so solid and assured was he in his position and the performance he’d deliver. Vermeulen had a number of great games for the Boks, rarely a run-of-the-mill game, and never a poor game.
The good news though is it seems Vermeulen is not quite done with rugby. If rumours are to be believed, the two-time World Cup winner will soon head into coaching, and most probably at the Stormers, as Vermeulen lives in the western Cape.
This is good news for that team and the Boks, too, because former player involvement is important in passing on knowledge and experience to the next generation of players.
Good luck and all the best to Vermeulen on his next venture.
One can’t help wonder though, with many of the recent World Cup winners set to be in their mid-30s and a bit older come the next World Cup in 2027, who will be next to announce their international retirement?