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The province’s patience reaped a fine reward as the 35-year-old World Cup winner became the second player to join the Irish outfit this summer after fellow 35-year-old Mick Kearney, who returned to Ireland two years in the Italian sun.
Vermuelen has signed a contract with the side until 2023 and will join the squad following the completion of his commitments with South Africa for the year.
“It didn’t have to be in any particular aspect,” McFarland said. “We wanted it to be a back-rower, but we wanted it to be an influential back-rower.
“When we first looked at the names of the list, they were really good players, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve got really good players here, so we held our breath and kept our powder dry.”
The high-profile move comes several months after the collapsed move involving former European Player of the Year Leone Nakarawa, who failed his medical.
The side were so certain of the previous deal that they posted a video showcasing highlights of the Fijian lock titled ‘Welcome to Ulster Rugby Leone Nakarawa’.
However, after the Nakarawa transfer did not work out, McFarland and co. did not panic in their search for a replacement for Marcell Coetzee, who the Ulster boss called a “difference-making player.”
“…One day Bryn [Cunningham, Ulster’s Head of Operations and Recruitment] stuck his head into my office and said what about Duane Vermeulen? I said ‘Yes, please!’ and Bryn took it from there.”
Vermuelen joins as a Springbok half-centurion who is one of the most influential figures in Jacques Nienaber’s side – a defensive captain that knows how to translate a game plan into action.
His new club Ulster kick-off their 2021/22 season when they welcome McFarland’s old employers Glasgow Warriors to the Kingspan Stadium under the lights on Friday, September 24 at 7:35 pm.