What type of player will Ulster be getting by signing 35-year-old Duane Vermeulen?

Ulster have made an extremely promising start to the United Rugby Championship and sit only four points behind leaders Leinster. The tournament still has a long way to go, though, with a host of gruelling winter fixtures to come over the festive season. By this time, however, recent signing Duane Vermeulen would have linked up with his new teammates after international duty in the autumn Test matches.

Indeed, instead of flying back home to a summery South Africa after the Springboks do battle with England at Twickenham, the number eight will board a plane to a frosty Belfast to begin his Ulster journey. So, how much will Vermuelen contribute towards a winning season? It should be said that the most recent rugby odds still consider Ulster as outsiders to win the 2022 Grand Final having been priced at 10/1 to do so. In essence, what we can gauge from the latest Rugby Union betting tips is that even with the services of Vermeulen at their disposal, Ulster will ultimately come up short this season

Perhaps this is down to the fact that the Springbok international is potentially reaching the end of his professional career and may have left his better days behind him. Nonetheless, the last few years paint a very different picture to this critical assessment. In fact, you don’t even need to go that far back to find a game where Vermeulen provided a match-winning contribution after South Africa narrowly beat Wales in Cardiff at the start of November thanks to his superb performance.

The 35-year-old’s display at the Principality Stadium naturally bodes well for Ulster, but if we were to look back at the last few years and the career that Vermeulen has had in general, we’ll find him to be an obsessive winner.

To start with, Vermeulen boasts a 68% win percentage when he puts on the famous Springbok jersey having won 40 of the 59 Tests he’s played. Keep in mind that South Africa play New Zealand and Australia far more than any other team as they compete in the southern hemispheres’ Rugby Championship every year, so they are likely to suffer the odds loss. With this in mind, it’s quite extraordinary that Vermeulen has only been on the receiving end of defeat 18 times since his initial debut in 2012.

Yes, when Vermeulen is on the Springbok side, they usually win as was proved when he started the 2019 Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama and put in the best performance of his career that ultimately earned him the Man of the Match accolade and helped South Africa to win the World Cup. What this clearly demonstrates is that this isn’t a man that is overwhelmed when put on the biggest international sporting stage.

Indeed, Vermeulen will often come up with the goods when face to face with the most pressurised situations. Another stirring example of this was his role in South Africa’s quarter-final win against Wales at the 2015 World Cup when he drove the Boks to victory despite trailing in the dying minutes by providing one of the passes of the tournament to captain Fourie du Preez, who then went on to score the winning try.

In reality, one could talk about Vermeulen’s exploits for many hours given how successful he has been on the rugby pitch over the course of his career. It seems that, despite being 35, Ulster possesses a number eight that still has the Midas touch.

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