The two standout No 8s in world rugby will have a big role to play in the epic Test between the All Blacks and Springboks in Wellington, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Read won the 2013 IRB Player of the Year award, and deservedly so. The All Blacks No 8 is far more than just a powerful defender and world-class lineout jumper. His acceleration off the back of the scrum and in open play, not to mention his ability to complete some miraculous and often try-creating offloads, is what makes him a special player. There should be no doubt that the All Blacks are a more dangerous side when Read starts.
Read was the best player in the world in 2013, and easily the best No 8. That assertion cannot, however, be made with confidence after assessing the performances of another world-class No 8 in the 2014 season.
Duane Vermeulen was second to Read in 2013, and second by some distance. But given what we've witnessed over the past few months, the Bok No 8 has certainly closed the gap between himself and his All Blacks counterpart.
Vermeulen's natural strength and aggression has enhanced the Boks' physical game. However, what the big man doesn't get enough credit for is his ability to win turnovers at the breakdown, nor a running game that often leaves many a defender trailing in his wake.
After three rounds of the competition, Vermeulen leads the Rugby Championship stats for defenders beaten. His tally of eight is superior to that of backline players such as the Wallabies' Israel Folau and the All Blacks' Israel Dagg.
The game promises to be a great contest, and one that should serve up an absorbing contest within a contest in Read vs Vermeulen.
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