- Former Ireland star CJ Stander has warned the local rugby fraternity not to doubt the enduring value of Duane Vermeulen.
- There are concerns over the Springbok veterans' workload ahead of next year's World Cup, prompting calls for depth to be explored in 2022.
- But Stander believes Vermeulen is a vital part of SA's World Cup defence and labels his move to Ulster as a good one.
Write Duane Vermeulen off at your own peril.
That's CJ Stander's emphatic message to doubters questioning whether the veteran Springbok talisman has enough fuel left in the tank for next year's World Cup defence in France.
It's not that there would be objections to Vermeulen's presence at the showpiece tournament, rather reservations on his physical state should the national team not test its depth in 2022 to give him a bit of a rest.
"I played against Duane and trained with him a few times too," said the recently retired Stander, who left South Africa in 2012 and eventually ended with 51 Test caps for Ireland.
"He's a wily player."
Stander draws a parallel between Vermeulen - who'll be 37 in France next year - and his former Munster and national team-mate Peter O'Mahony, who's three years younger than his Bok compatriot, in that both men have emphatically answered questions over their enduring value.
CJ Stander and Peter O'Mahony at Munster. (Getty Images)
"Duane reminds me of Peter, who's playing exceptional rugby," said the former Junior Springbok.
"A year or two ago the same reports about being too old were floating around about Peter and now he's playing some of his best rugby.
"You can't write Duane off at all."
While there are question marks hanging over whether Vermeulen's decision to play in a high-octane environment like Ulster's is good for his body, Stander believes the move's benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
"One good thing I think he did was move to Ulster and get some northern hemisphere rugby into him," he said.
"He's probably not getting managed that well as he would've in South Africa or Japan, but [the experience] will help him at the end of the day."
Naturally, Stander shares the excitement created by emerging talents such as Evan Roos, Elrigh Louw and Phepsi Buthelezi though he doesn't come across as a disciple for immediately throwing them into the cauldron that is Test rugby.
"There's obviously talent coming through, I look at Elrigh and Evan and I'm very excited what's coming through the ranks. They can learn a lot from Duane," he said.
"However, I think Duane is going to be a vital part of the Bok team at the World Cup."