Who’s the best eighthman?
- 15 Jan 2014
Two of our team members pick their No 8 for the SARugbymag.co.za Fans' World XV.
While arguing for Vermeulen over the IRB Player of the Year Kieran Read is difficult, there are aspects of Vermeulen’s game that I’d rather have in my World XV.
Vermeulen improved significantly throughout 2013, and his loose-trio combination with Willem Alberts and Francois Louw has become one of the most feared in world rugby.
While Read is good at the breakdown, Vermeulen is great. He has evolved his game to get over the ball very quickly and create turnovers more frequently.
Vermeulen is also incredibly strong in the tackle – rarely will you see him go backwards in a collision – and his ability to get over the advantage line has given the Springbok backs the chance to show their skill.
I pity Proome for having to pick anyone else besides Read here. Duane Vermeulen was immense in 2013, but it speaks of just how good his All Blacks counterpart was that he is still some way off competing with him for being the world's best in the position.
Read has grown steadily over the last couple of years to the point where he is now as influential as Dan Carter and Richie McCaw for his team. His absence makes the world champions significantly weaker, as they don't have a replacement remotely near his calibre.
Read's ball-in-hand game is his primary strength. Deceptively quick and extremely powerful at the tackle point, he rarely doesn't cross the advantage line. The go forward he generates is critical to how the Blacks want to play. Furthermore, his skills in contact belie his size. Read adds to his threat by being very adept at offloading in the tackle, a skill Vermeulen he yet to master.
Defensively he packs a massive punch and doesn't give up ground easily. He is a tough bugger, perhaps one of the toughest in the game at present (here's where Vermeulen matches up strongly). He adds to his potency by having an excellent temperament. He shines in the big games consistently, often ending up as the best player on the park.
Vermeulen is a fine player and is the only No 8 in the game to warrant consideration as a potential suitor to Read's throne. However, the New Zealander has some breathing room at the top and will certainly be remembered as one of the greatest ever to play the game.
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