Springbok loose forward Duane Vermeulen insists that there was never any danger of him missing the three-Test series against Ireland because of club commitments.
The Top 14 play-offs overlap with World Rugby’s official June international window, meaning that some French clubs will be without a few foreign imports, such as Toulon number eight Vermeulen, for the most important part of their season.
Toulon have secured qualification for the Top 14 semi-finals, which will be played on the same weekend as South Africa’s second Test against Ireland in Johannesburg.
Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has – not for the first time – threatened not to pay the salaries of players who are not available for club duty due to international commitments.
In response, SA Rugby instructed Vermeulen, who signed a three-year deal with Toulon last July, to make himself available for the June Tests against Ireland or put his Test retirement in writing.
Vermeulen missed the first week of South Africa’s camp ahead of the Irish series, which fell outside of the Test window, but arrived immediately after the final round of French league action, touching down in Cape Town on Sunday.
The 29-year-old made it clear that his availability for his country was never in doubt.
“There was never any question of me staying on there (in Toulon),” replied Vermeulen when asked if he had weighed up whether to play for Toulon or the Boks.
“I said from the beginning that I wanted to play international rugby and if I can represent my country, no matter where they play, I’ll give it my all.
“Everything is in binding contracts.
“I just want to represent my country and I’m very happy to be here.”
The former Stormers back-row also said he had no qualms about missing out of the Bok captaincy because he is based overseas.
“I don’t have a problem with the captaincy, it was the coach and SA Rugby’s decision about who they thought was the right guy for the job,” said Vermeulen.
“Adriaan Strauss is a good captain.
“He captained the Cheetahs and Bulls, he knows how things work at international level and I support him 100 percent. If he needs any help from the senior players, we’re always there to help.”
by Ross Hastie in Cape Town