Under the knife

One of the best back rows in the game may miss the Rugby World Cup

South Africa’s Duane Vermeulen will have surgery on a neck injury.

SOUTH AFRICA SAY their number eight Duane Vermeulen is “in a race against time” to be fit for the looming World Cup as he prepares for surgery on a neck injury.

Vermeulen, who will join Top 14 giants Toulon from the Stormers later this year, consulted a specialist in South Africa over the weekend, whereafter it was decided that an operation on his neck issue was the most suitable treatment.

Jonathan Sexton and Rhys Ruddock tackle Duane Vermeulen Vermeulen is a formidable ball-carrying presence. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

The South African Rugby Union says the procedure, which is set for Wednesday, gives Vermeulen “the best possible chance to recover” in time to take part in the World Cup, although head coach Heyneke Meyer was downbeat.

Vermeulen was nominated for the 2014 World Rugby Player of the Year award along with Ireland’s Johnny Sexton and eventual winner Brodie Retallick. The South African back row’s international form in recent years has been nothing short of exceptional.

“This is a huge setback for us, but as with any injury in the game it’s something that we simply have to overcome,” said Meyer today.

Duane is world-class, which was underlined last year when he was named the SA Rugby Player of the Year and nominated for the World Rugby Player of the Year Award.

“He is one of the leaders in our squad and since making his debut in 2012, has become an integral member of the team.

“I really feel very sorry for him as he was hoping to have yet another huge season for the Springboks, but we’ve properly discussed the situation with him and our medical team, and the decision was taken to have the surgery now as it will be the best for him in the long run.

CHxevqeWUAAd5Mm Vermeulen joins Toulon later this year. RCT RCT

“We do have a number of great loose forwards available for selection, but with Willem Alberts also not available, this will be a good test of our depth.”

The Springboks’ medical team underlined that they will work ceaselessly to ensure Vermeulen does come back into contention for the World Cup, as losing the 27-year-old for the global tournament would be a major blow to Meyer’s hopes of success.

Toulon will watch the situation anxiously ahead of Vermeulen’s move to join the likes of Paul O’Connell on the Côte d’Azur in November.

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