DHL Stormers legend: Duane Vermeulen

PUBLISHED: April 22, 2024

One of South African rugby’s legendary hardmen, Duane Vermeulen was a powerhouse from the back of the scrum and respected leader for the DHL Stormers.

Nicknamed ‘Thor’ for his likeness to the mythological Norse god, the formidable No.8 gained a reputation across the globe for his fearless ball carries and rib-tickling tackles.

Vermeulen’s abrasive and physical style, married with an acute tactical awareness and calming presence, made him the ideal on-field defensive general for the DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province from 2009 to 2015.

Vermeulen’s professional journey started at the Airlink Pumas youth academy in 2005 before progressing to the senior squad. He left the Mpumalanga outfit for the Toyota Cheetahs in 2007, before joining his former coach Rassie Erasmus at the DHL Stormers in Cape Town.

A fan favourite and senior campaigner often asked to step into the breach as captain, Vermeulen carried the DHL Stormers to the final and semifinals of the Super Rugby competition, and secured the Currie Cup title with DHL WP in 2012.

The hulking loose forward earned 89 caps for the DHL Stormers, and made his Springbok debut in 2012, aged 26, on the back of his standout efforts for the franchise.

Vermeulen’s illustrious Springbok tenure spanned 76 Tests over 11 seasons and if it wasn’t for injuries, he would probably have racked up a century of appearances in the green and gold.

He lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy for the first time in 2019, putting in a Man of the Match performance in the final following his tournament bow four years earlier, and brought an end to his playing career in the 2023 showpiece after helping the Springboks win back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles.

Vermeulen won the SA Rugby Player of the Year Award twice (2014 and 2020), and is one of only two players who have won the Currie Cup with three different unions (the Toyota Cheetahs in 2007, DHL WP, and Vodacom Bulls in 2020).

He also played club rugby abroad, for Toulon in France (2015-2018), the Kubota Spears in Japan (2018-2020) and Ulster in Northern Ireland (2021-2023).

Vermeulen’s DHL Stormers numbers

89 – The number of matches he played for the DHL Stormers from 2009 to 2015

5 – The number of tries he scored for the DHL Stormers