Toulon prepare for Vermeulen exit


File: South African Number Eight Duane Vermeulen (C) looks on during a scrum during the European Rugby Champions Cup rugby union round 2 match between Sale Sharks and Toulon

CAPE TOWN - Springbok Duane Vermeulen increasingly appears set to make a return to South Africa next year after it has emerged that his French club Toulon are already looking at possible replacements for the No 8.

Vermeulen made an immediate impact for the Boks when he returned to the national camp on the recently concluded end-of-year tour, but missed the final clash against Wales as it fell outside of the international window.

The abrasive eighthman has been at Toulon since 2015, but it’s believed that new South African director of rugby Rassie Erasmus is determined for him to make a return to South Africa.

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In addition, it’s reported that a new salary cap in the Top14 could see Toulon also have to do without the services of fellow South African Marcel van der Merwe, as well as former All Black Ma’a Nonu.

With Vermeulen’s openly stated ambitions to feature for the Boks at the 2019 World Cup, it would make sense that he could well be lining up a return to South Africa, even though he is well past the 30-cap eligibility ruling for overseas-based players.

Should the 31-year-old leave Toulon, it’s expected that the Stormers and Western Province will be the benefactors, with Vermeulen likely to rejoin his former team.

According to the respected French publication, Midi Olympique, Toulon are close to finalising a deal for New Zealand loose-forward Jerome Kaino to now replace Vermeulen when he departs.

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However, Vermeulen has also been linked with two other French clubs, Toulouse and Racing 92, and will certainly have other options if a return to South African doesn’t materialise.

Following the Boks’ disappointing end-of-year tour, a season review is set to be conducted by SA Rugby, while Erasmus is understood to have already begun earnestly planning a new way forward for 2018 and beyond.