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Ulster Rugby’s Duane Vermeulen reveals pain of losing father at eight years old

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Duane Vermeulen in action

Duane Vermeulen in action

Duane Vermeulen in training

Duane Vermeulen in training

Duane Vermeulen with his family at a Belfast Giants ice hockey game

Duane Vermeulen with his family at a Belfast Giants ice hockey game

Duane Vermeulen with wife Ezel and their two sons

Duane Vermeulen with wife Ezel and their two sons

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Duane Vermeulen in action

Ulster Rugby ace Duane Vermeulen has spoken about losing his dad, André, when he was a child.

He said he would love the chance to speak with his father again and revealed how being there for his own kids means so much to him.

Duane (35) said: “My dad passed away when I was eight years old and being that young you can’t remember a lot of stuff. You don’t really know your parents when you’re growing up or understand what life is about.

“So if I could sit down with him and have a chat, ask him questions, talk about things that have moulded me through life, it would be a really interesting conversation.

“I’ve been chasing this ball for 18 seasons and now I’m in the last part of my career. I have two boys and my oldest son is turning nine this year.

“I’ve been away from them for seven or eight years, so the biggest thing for me is to spend time with my family. And proper time — a year where non-stop I can get out of bed and do things with the kids. Those are special times.

“That’s why I talked about time before. There are things that are gone that you’ll never get back in life and kids only stay kids until a certain age.”

The 18st 10lb man-mountain said he is enjoying life in Belfast, even though he misses his wife, Ezél, and their two sons, who are back in his native South Africa.

The number eight explained: “I’ve been getting used to the wet and cold. The first part was great, as I had my family here for a couple of months, but they went back to South Africa.

“It’s difficult being on your own, but I’m enjoying the club and the culture. Hopefully I’ll get to learn more and see more of this beautiful country.”

Duane, capped 61 times for the Springboks, told Rugby World that he is fussy about whom he rooms with at Ulster because he has a hang-up about tidiness.

He admitted: “Things being out of place really annoys me. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I grew up in a perfectionist home, so I’m a little OCD.

“It can be difficult going about your days and you see guys with something out of the norm. I try to pick tidy roommates.

“I’ve had a couple of guys where it’s chaos on their side of the room, whereas mine is perfectly neat and I know where stuff is.”

But the 6ft 4in giant on the field confessed that he has been brought down to size off it — by his gran.

She gave him a ticking off after hearing him swearing during a game, which he said was his most embarrassing moment in rugby.

He winced: “Once I cursed in front of the referee and it was picked up on the ref’s mic. My grandmother phoned me the day after and asked what I’d said.

“Then I had one or two Instagram messages telling me my language was inappropriate.”

Duane also said that when he hangs up his boots after his stint with Ulster he hopes he will be remembered “as a guy who made a difference in someone’s life, either on the pitch or off the pitch”.

He added: “If I can make a difference in one guy’s life, I’ve played my part.”


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