Ulster have pulled off a major signing by announcing the arrival of South Africa number eight Duane Vermeulen, who will join until 2023.
The Springbok is among the game’s most influential forwards and against Australia last Sunday he made his comeback from the ankle injury that forced him to miss the recent British and Irish Lions series.
That fixture against the Wallabies was his first Test outing since the 2019 World Cup final victory over England, in which he was named man of the match, and he will head to Belfast after the end-of-year internationals have finished.
“Duane is clearly a world class player who will bring depth and experience to our really talented group of back-rowers,” head coach Dan McFarland said.
“As well as being an undeniable talent on the pitch, I know Duane will play an important role going forward in strengthening the winning mindset we are building as a squad.”
Vermeulen, who stands 6’4″ tall and weighs 18 stones, is a powerful carrier and a key leader for the Springboks.
The 35-year-old has accumulated 55 caps and has European experience after spending three seasons at Toulon from 2015-18.
“Ulster and myself had detailed discussions about the club’s values, expectations and the potential role I can play going forward,” Vermeulen said.
“It appealed and resonated with me to a point where I got very excited and decided to commit myself to this Ulster journey. I can’t wait to become part of the Ulster family and to serve as best I can.”
Meanwhile, Wales and Ospreys centre George North has signed a two-year contract extension that locks him in to the Welsh Rugby Union and his region until 2023.
North, 29, became the youngest player in international rugby union to reach 100 caps earlier this year but is currently sidelined with a knee injury.
The former Scarlets and Northampton Saints finisher made his Ospreys bow in August 2018 and has appeared in 27 matches, scoring 12 tries.