Duane Vermeulen may have enjoyed the facilities of a fancy suite at the hotel at Loftus Park, but it was no place for a family to live and this is believed to be the main reason the Springbok eighthman decided to leave the Bulls after just one year.
Vermeulen, who played a key role in turning around the fortunes of the Bulls, leading them to their first Currie Cup title since 2009 in January, has decided to continue his epic career at Ulster in Northern Ireland.
While it is sad news for the Bulls, they do have the consolation of the fantastic environment the Springbok talisman helped build and the knowledge that they have an eighthman star-of-the-future to replace him in Elrigh Louw.
“Duane’s contract with us ended on August 31 and we had plenty of chats about his plans and wanted him for another season. But he has been commuting from Cape Town, staying in the hotel, and that is not ideal when you’re trying to raise a family,” Bulls CEO Edgar Rathbone said on Friday.
“His family has been back in Cape Town, he’s 35 years old now and it’s a good deal he’s been offered by Ulster.
“It make sense for Duane and his family to take up that offer. But he adds immense value wherever he goes and the stability we have in our squad now is partly due to him. He has really added to our culture and a winning environment here.”
Vermeulen was in top-class form before he suffered a twisted ankle that required surgery in early June. It meant he missed the series against the British and Irish Lions, a rare gap in his Springbok CV, and he only made a return to the national team, without having his usual influence, last weekend against Australia.
But the fact that the Nelspuit product has signed a two-year contract with Ulster suggests he is looking to still be a part of the Springbok set-up when they go for a second-successive title at the 2023 World Cup in France.
Meanwhile, the Bulls announced their touring squad for the United Rugby Championship that starts next weekend with a visit to Leinster, consistent European powerhouses with a handful of trophies since 2008/9.
The Bulls will be taking a half-dozen high-quality loose forwards overseas with them – Arno Botha, Marcell Coetzee, Jacques du Plessis, Muller Uys, Louw and WJ Steenkamp.