Duane Vermuelen wants to say goodbye to Boks on his own terms

Duane Vermuelen wants to say goodbye to Boks on his own terms

Duane Vermeulen admits he'd dearly love to say goodbye to the game of rugby that has given him so much by helping the Springboks defend their Rugby World Cup crown in France later this year.

The legendary No 8 knows he is nearing the end of a glittering career but is doing everything in his power to make it to the World Cup for one final hurrah with the team that has come to mean so much to him.

With the likes of Jasper Wiese and Evan Roos coming to the fore at the back of the scrum, Vermeulen knows it's not going to be easy, but that doesn't affect his determination in the slightest.

"I'm focused on this Rugby World Cup," he told rugby journalist Michael Vlismas this week. "If I play, I'll give it my everything. If I carry a bag or I'm on the bench, I'll give it my everything. If I'm on the sidelines helping younger players or working like a coach, I'll give it my everything. I would love to be a part of it and end my career on a proper high.

"Winning the Rugby World Cup is the pinnacle of a player's career. If I could be part of that again and defend that title with this team, that would be incredible. But I'd also like the opportunity to sign off on my own terms. There are a lot of players that don't get to sign off on their own terms."

Few Springbok fans would begrudge Vermeulen the swansong he so richly deserves as one of the greatest servants of South African rugby in the modern era.

But for Vermeulen, it's not about what he feels he deserves, but more about what he'd like to give back to the game before he finally decides to call it a day.

"For me, I'd like to say farewell to the game in my own significant way. I want to pay homage to the game which has given me so much in my life, and this would be a good way for me to say thank you to rugby. If I'm not selected, it will be tough. But I know that at the end of this year I'm done, and I've got a few months to give it my everything, and I won't hold back. I'm going to push as hard as I can. There is still some fight in me, and I won't take it easy on the guys challenging in my position."

Vermeulen even revealed he went so far as joining the local Durbell Rugby Club near his home in the Cape to make sure he is eligible for Rugby World Cup selection.

"I believe you need to be affiliated with a club to play in the Rugby World Cup, and I've asked the Springbok management if I could be affiliated with Durbell, the rugby club that is a block away from my home.

"I was offered an extension on my contract with Ulster, but I had a good chat with my wife and said I can only play rugby for so long. There comes a stage in your life when you need to take a step back. I've got two boys growing up and I've missed out on a lot of family things. So I wanted to come home and be with my family."

Vermeulen said he was quickly reminded about the power of the game of rugby in South Africa when he was immediately recognised upon his return back home after several years abroad.

"I haven't played rugby in South Africa for two years while I was with Ulster in the United Rugby Championship, and the last time I was in the Cape playing rugby was in 2015. But these two guys immediately recognised me and started talking rugby. I truly believe Nelson Mandela's quote that sport has the power to change the world, and I believe the Springboks play a massive role in this in South Africa."

Vermeulen admits he's missed his Springbok family, and is confident he has more to offer the team before he does finally decide to hang up his boots.

"When you're away from the Springboks and you're not in the mix anymore you miss that feeling. It's very special and you can't really explain it to anybody. It's something you always want to be a part of. And I like to think I'm always learning more and becoming a better player every day. There are always new tricks of the trade that you pick up in your career. That's why I've really enjoyed playing rugby abroad because you pick up on different styles and you can bring it back.

"I truly believe I can still make a difference on and off the field for the Springboks."