Dan McFarland expects sudden impact from Duane Vermeulen

Date published: November 24 2021 - News Desk

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland does not think Duane Vermeulen will take long to adjust to his new environment as he joins up with his new team at Kingspan Stadium next week.

The Irish province announced the signing of the 2019 World Cup winner in September, but the number eight is yet to arrive in Belfast due to his Springbok commitments.

Having been with South Africa’s national side through the Rugby Championship and the Autumn Nations Series, Vermeulen will close out 2021 for the Barbarians against Samoa at Twickenham on Saturday.

Set to make Ulster debut in December

Meanwhile, Ulster face Leinster later on the same day in a mouth-watering United Rugby Championship encounter at the RDS Arena. That means the 35-year-old could make his debut the following week when Ulster travel to the Ospreys. Following that, there are only inter-provincial derbies and European games until the end of January.

Ulster captain Iain Henderson is out with a hamstring injury for part of the coming block of games, meaning Vermeulen’s experience and leadership would be of great use to McFarland.

“Absolutely,” McFarland told the Belfast Telegraph when asked if Vermeulen would be an immediate asset. “He’s played a number of games for the Springboks and he’s got the Baa-baas next weekend and then he arrives with us.

“We’ll obviously have a plan for how we introduce him. He’s a seasoned professional, it’s not going to take much time for him to get up to speed.

“We’ve lots of other considerations to take around that but we’re really looking forward to seeing him and welcoming him to the Ulster family.”

McFarland was tight-lipped when asked about reports claiming a failed attempt to lure another world champion in loosehead Steven Kitshoff.

A powerful scrummager and member of the Springboks notorious ‘Bomb Squad’, Kitshoff is still contracted to the Stormers until 2023 despite being linked with several European clubs.

Having moved north before, the front-rower put on an impressive scrummaging display against Ulster for Top 14 side Bordeaux-Begles. McFarland did not elaborate on how seriously the avenue had been explored.

“Obviously we’re not going to comment on speculation around recruitment,” he said.

“That’s something that we just get on with and then we announce it when it’s done.”