The two No 8s will be looking to put a week of adversity behind them at Twickenham on Saturday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
Duane Vermeulen has been one of the most consistent performers in world rugby this year. He's been the go-to man for the Springboks and delivered on almost every occasion. Last weekend against Ireland was the exception.
Vermeulen was below his bruising best, and he was the first to admit it, saying that he'd been knocked off his high horse. His performance was hardly an atrocity, but for a player with aspirations of becoming the IRB Player of the year, it was below the levels he expects of himself.
His opposite number on Saturday has enjoyed a good year at both club and international levels. A standout during England's Triple Crown victory earlier this year, Vunipola failed to make the desired impact against the All Blacks last weekend.
He carried the ball seven times for 24m, but his work rate on defence (he made just four tackles, as opposed to Chris Robshaw's 16 and Tom Wood's 17) was not up to standard. He has been retained for the match against the Boks, but will need to improve his contribution if he's to match Vermeulen.
The 28-year-old South African gets through a mountain of work, at the breakdown, with ball in hand and most tellingly on defence. It will be his last big Test of the year and final opportunity to sway the IRB judges. Given all that has come before, the crowd at Twickenham could well be in for a display of beautiful brutality on Saturday. Unfortunately for them, it's likely to come from the opposing side.
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