Vermeulen's return clouds Bok captaincy choice

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018    Getty Images

The 39-Test veteran has been playing for Toulon in France's Top 14 competition for the past two years in the wake of South Africa's semi-final loss to New Zealand at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

However, his time in France has been affected by injury, having been available for selection less than half the time he had been at the club.

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal said: "Duane is leaving because he wants to prepare for the World Cup [in Japan next year]. We had offered him a contract that corresponded to the amount of time he works. We made him a great offer but he wants to go home and his national team coach is relying on him."

His expected June return will be welcome news for the Stormers, for whom he has played 89 games, who have lost Springboks captain Eben Etzebeth for four months with a shoulder injury.

As they head into the pre-season game programme they have several players also out of action including the du Plessis brothers, Jean-Luc (groin) and Dan (shoulder).

Vermeulen is seen in some quarters in South Africa as a prospective Springbok captain. While it was understood Etzebeth was an 'interim captain' during his 11 Tests in charge last year, it is the likely return from a groin injury of Lions captain Warren Whiteley, also a No.8, that could cause some issues. said the captaincy situation was more complex when Whiteley was considered.

"He is still viewed as the Springbok captain in some quarters while [Siya] Kolisi also enhanced his credentials for the job.

"If Vermeulen breezes in and usurps the entire 2017 leadership group as skipper, it would spark some intense debate.

"But there is no doubt that Vermeulen is a strong candidate for the Boks' captaincy after five years of proven ability at Test level.

"In the 39 Tests he has played the Boks have won 72 percent of the time, which is well above the team's 65 percent historical winning ratio.

"He is also a proven leader and has regularly captained Toulon," it said.

Meanwhile, a bid to take Investec Super Rugby to the United States has foundered.

The Stormers and the Bulls were to play a warm-up game in Los Angeles ahead of the Super Rugby season but issues over transfers and logistics saw the game cancelled and it will now be played at Wellington (Boland) on February 3.

The Stormers open their Super season against the Jaguares in Cape Town on February 17 and the Bulls play the Hurricanes at Pretoria on February 24.