Duane Vermeulen: World Cup winner will 'add game nous' - Ulster coach McFarland

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Duane VermeulenVermeulen has agreed a contract to play for Ulster until 2023

Ulster coach Dan McFarland says Springbok World Cup winner Duane Vermeulen can add "a lot of game nous" to his squad for the upcoming season.

The signing of the 35-year-old number eight was announced last week and he will be available to the Irish province after the autumn internationals.

"He's a big-bodied back-rower and a really smart player," said McFarland.

"He has been a top quality player for a long time and will play a part in making us a better team." he added.

Vermeulen was named player of the match in South Africa's World Cup final win over England in November 2019 but missed the recent Test series against the British and Irish Lions through injury.

He is set to feature in the Springboks' autumn fixtures however, before joining up with the Ulster squad.

"The fact that the Springboks are so keen to get him back in their team is testament to the kind of influence he can have," enthused McFarland.

"No one player will bridge the gap from a team challenging for silverware and one that gets over the line wins it - that will require a squad effort - but he will certainly help make us a better team."

Bryn asked, 'what about Duane Vermeulen?'

The Ulster coach explained that the province bided their time to find a suitable replacement for Vermeulen's departed compatriot Marcell Coetzee after their move for former European Player of the Year Leone Nakarawa fell through.

The Fijian forward did not complete his move from Glasgow after a "detailed medical report" was reviewed by Ulster.

"We decided that rather than diving straight into the market and signing the first player that became available we would be very specific about the type of player we wanted," said McFarland.

"We wanted someone we thought was really going to make a difference to us - we wanted a back-rower but an influential back-rower.

"The names we had on our initial list were good back-rowers but we have a lot of really good back-rowers here.

"We just held our breath and kept our powder dry and then one day Bryn [Cunningham, Operations Director] stuck his head into my office and said, 'what about Duane Vermeulen?'.

"I said 'yes, please' and Bryn really took it from there. We had a lot of good conversations around what as a club we could offer and what part he could play in that."

Squad news for Glasgow game

Ulster play their first match in the new United Rugby Championship on Friday with a home fixture against Glasgow.

Ireland internationals Rob Herring and Will Addison will miss the game through injury but may return in the next couple of weeks, while Luke Marshall and Jack McGrath are longer-term absentees.

Second row Kieran Treadwell will miss the season opener, along with Iain Henderson, who will be absent for the first three or four rounds of the competition after being part of the British and Irish Lions squad which toured South Africa in the summer.

Ulster are hopeful however that back row Sean Reidy will be available for selection after coming off injured against Saracens in pre-season.

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