Springboks behemoth Duane Vermeulen and England powerhouse Billy Vunipola have dominated in the early stages of the Straight 8 Fan Vote to decide the best No. 8 on the planet.
Punters worldwide have hit the polls on RugbyPass’ Facebook and Instagram accounts as part of the initiative to decide the world’s best players in each position, as voted by the fans.
The first four instalments of the campaign have already passed, as South African pair Pieter-Steph du Toit and Cheslin Kolbe, England lock Maro Itoje and Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg claimed the honours in the votes for for their respective positions.
The new weekend has brought with it the next edition of the series, with eight of the best No. 8s around the world pitted against each other in a knockout bracket.
Vermeulen and Vunipola led the charge in the first round of voting, as both stars picked up hefty wins against the international opponents.
It was an all southern hemisphere encounter for Vermeulen, who had to contend with Argentina and Jaguares veteran Javier Ortega Desio.
However, the 57-test South American proved no match for the 2019 World Cup final man of the match, who accrued a whopping 92 percent of the public’s support.
The result means Vermuelen, who now plies his trade in Japan’s Top League with the Kubota Spears, will take on barnstorming Ireland loose forward CJ Stander in the semi-final stage of the bracket.
The South African-born Munster man has qualified for the second round of the vote after dispatching France and La Rochelle rival Grégory Alldritt with 67 percent of the fans’ backing.
On the other side of the draw, Vunipola cruised to an easy victory against experienced Welsh operator Taulupe Faletau.
The Tongan-born 29-year-old, who plays for Bath at club level and has 88 test caps for Wales and the British and Irish Lions, fell well short against the Saracens star with just 25 percent of the vote.
That leaves Vunipola with another Welsh opponent in the semi-finals thanks to Ross Moriarty’s opening round win against up-and-coming Japanese prospect Kazuki Himeno.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Toyota Verblitz No. 8 was playing and training alongside one of the greatest of all-time in former All Blacks captain Kieran Read, but that wasn’t enough to beat Moriarty, who swayed 59 percent of the pollers.
The second round of voting is now open, with both Vermeulen and Vunipola holding substantial leads over Stander and Moriarty with just over two hours remaining at the time of writing.
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