Kieran Read's offloading in the tackle was the difference in Saturday's absorbing contest between the All Blacks and Springboks, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The game lived up to its billing for drama and intensity, and so too did the contest between the two best No 8s in world rugby. It seems unfair to name a winner, as both Read and Vermeulen made important contributions.
The Bok No 8 was my Man of the Match. Vermeulen was at his brutal best at the collisions, and made a statement early on when he cut down All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. Vermeulen has been one of the best players in this year's Rugby Championship, and is without question the best defensive No 8 in world rugby.
But it wasn't raw power alone that marked this performance as one of real quality. Vermeulen's timing and decision-making at the breakdown led to some crucial turnovers for the Boks. It's just a pity that the visitors weren't capable of using those turnovers to good effect.
Read made fewer contributions over the 80 minutes, but he did contribute a couple of magical touches that would determine the contest. The All Blacks eventually won the game 14-10, and would not have enjoyed that four-point advantage if not for Read's offload early in the second half.
The All Blacks No 8 collected a crosskick deep in South African territory. He was well-marked by Jean de Villiers, but the Bok captain could not prevent Read from freeing up those powerful arms.
The skill and vision to find McCaw was exceptional. Read's pass to McCaw set up the try that would allow the All Blacks to seize control of the game.
While both No 8s deserve plaudits, it was the New Zealander who made the most influential play. It has not only impacted on the result, but the Rugby Championship standings. Thanks to Read, the All Blacks are well on course to win another title.
Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images/Barry Aldworth/Backpagepix