McFarland: Vermeulen can make difference for Ulster but more needed to bridge gap

South African World Cup winner Dwayne Vermeulen's highly anticipated arrival at Ulster is no guarantee that trophies will follow, says Dan McFarland
McFarland: Vermeulen can make difference for Ulster but more needed to bridge gap

Duane Vermeulen, South Africa

South African World Cup winner Dwayne Vermeulen's highly anticipated arrival at Ulster is no guarantee that trophies will follow, says Dan McFarland, but the head coach believes he is getting the type of influential player he has been chasing all year.

Ever since Marcel Coetzee decided he wanted to return to South Africa, Ulster have been in the market for a bulked-up back-rower different to anything they have already at the club.

They thought they had their man in January when Fijian star Leone Nakarawa agreed to join for the 20212/2022 season but the move fell through in June over to a medical report.

“We were always in the market for a difference-making player,” said McFarland, ahead of Ulster’s season opener against Glasgow on Friday.

“When Leone didn’t work out we didn’t want to rush straight back into the market, we wanted to wait for a player who would really make a difference.

“We wanted not just a back-rower — but an influential back-rower. We have a lot of really good back rows here so we kept our powder dry and one day Bryn (Cunningham) stuck his head into my office and said: ‘What about Dwayne Vermeulen?’ 

“I said: ‘Yes please’ and Bryn took it from there.

“Dwayne is a World Cup-winning number eight and MVP in a World Cup final.

“He’s a big-bodied back-rower, we don’t have big-bodied players, he brings game nous and he is a really smart player.” 

 The 35-year-old will not arrive in Belfast until late November at the earliest due to international commitments.

He is not the first southern hemisphere signing to get Ulster fans believing that the trophy drought, now stretching to 15 years, could soon be over but McFarland insists that is not about any individual.

“No one player will bridge that gap.

“On the few occasions we have been within reaching distance of trophies it’s us as a team that have fallen short. That is the progression we are on.

“We are a very good team but the bottom line is in any given competition you need to be a good team, get a bit of luck along the way and play well on any given day.

“Dwayne will help and play a part in that, but it will be how we play as a team.”

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