DHL Stormers and Springbok No.8 and South Africa’s Rugby Player of the Year in 2014, Duane Vermeulen, is in a race against time to be fit for the Rugby World Cup following a diagnosis that he will require surgery on a neck injury.
The 29-year-old Vermeulen, who was also the SARPA Players’ Player of the Year and the Vodacom Super Rugby Player of the Year in 2014, consulted a specialist in Durban on the recommendation of the Springbok medical team.
The need for surgery was identified to give him the best possible chance to recover in time for the global rugby showpiece in England in September and October. The operation is scheduled for Wednesday.
“This is a huge setback for us, but as with any injury in the game it’s something that we simply have to overcome,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Monday.
“Duane is world-class, which was underlined last year when he was named the SA Rugby Player of the Year and nominated for the World Rugby Player of the Year Award. He is one of the leaders in our squad and since making his debut in 2012, has become an integral member of the team.
“I really feel very sorry for him as he was hoping to have yet another huge season for the Springboks, but we’ve properly discussed the situation with him and our medical team, and the decision was taken to have the surgery now as it will be the best for him in the long run.
“We do have a number of great loose forwards available for selection, but with Willem Alberts also not available, this will be a good test of our depth.”
Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts said: “Player welfare is very important which is why we made the decision for Duane to undergo surgery. It’s the best option for his medium to long term career options.
“Duane will be put on an intensive post-operation rehabilitation programme within the Springbok set-up and we will work tirelessly to get him ready for the World Cup.”