South Africa back row Duane Vermeulen has announced his retirement from professional rugby with immediate effect.
Vermeulen made his South Africa debut in 2012 and has 76 Test caps to his name. He produced a man of the match performance in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final and was part of the squad that also clinched the 2023 edition.
The 37-year-old won the majority of his caps at number eight, but did also play as a flanker, including in the most recent World Cup win in France last month. He also won the SA Rugby Player of the Year Award twice in 2014 and 2020.
Having made his debut with Pumas in 2005, he also played for Cheetahs, Stormers, Toulon, Kubota Spears, Bulls and Ulster and won Currie Cup with Toyota Cheetahs (2007), DHL Western Province (2012) and Vodacom Bulls (2020).
"If you had asked me this a couple of years ago, I would probably have said no," he said.
"But when you finish (your playing career) you want to give back to the younger guys.
"If the opportunity arises, I would love to stay in the game. I love it and it is difficult to just step away when you have played professionally for 19 years."
South African Rugby Union President Mark Alexander paid tribute to Vermeulen and his contribution to the game.
“Duane will forever be regarded as one of the real hard men of South African rugby – he was not only a formidable force for the Springboks but also a multifaceted player who consistently delivered his best,” said Mr Alexander.
“As someone who preferred to operate away from the limelight, Duane was one of those players who never settled for second best and always gave everything he had to his team.
“He was a leader who captained South Africa in four Tests, but he also retired as the most-capped Springbok No 8 with two Rugby World Cup winners’ medals – a wonderful achievement for a player who will be remembered as a true legend of the sport.”