But it wasn’t a straight-forward trip for the Springbok RWC winner, after he and a number of compatriots were stranded at the airport in Tokyo as a result of the shutdown of international travel, in the wake of many countries closing their borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vermeulen, who plays for the Kubota Spears in Japan, was trying to return home after the Japanese Rugby Union cancelled their domestic season because of the pandemic.

On arrival at the airport a bunch of South Africans – including Vermeulen, who as the Man of the Match in the Springboks’ memorable 2019 RWC Final victory over England in Japan last November – found their flight out of Japan via the UAE to South Africa was cancelled.

After trying a number of times, he eventually made it onto a flight bound for Doha, from where he flew directly into Cape Town. Vermeulen was re-united with his family in the Mother City last Thursday, just before South Africa’s 21-day national lockdown started the following day.

“Fortunately, a fellow South African traveler told me about a flight to South Africa via Doha and Ethiopia. I couldn’t book online anymore, as the airlines had closed down bookings, but I was extremely fortunate to purchase a cash ticket,” said Vermeulen.

Back in sunny South Africa, he was reunited with his grateful and happy family, and the Springbok No 8, who has re-signed with the Vodacom Bulls, showed in a video how he and his two young sons intended spending their free time in isolation.

“You can imagine how glad I was to be back! The boys will help me to keep fit, they’ve already worked out a training schedule for me,” explained Vermeulen.

Earlier in the week, he also posted a message of support to the people of Italy, where the disease has claimed many lives.

“Ciao Italia, today while in a 21-day lockdown with my family we are thinking of you as a nation. Your country has a very special place in our hearts as both my boys gave their first steps in Italy. Making pizzas in honor of all the Italian people. Our prayers are with you,” read the social media post from Vermeulen, wearing an Italian Test jersey.