Duane Vermeulen fights off Billy Vunipola challenge to be crowned world's best No. 8
The experienced 33-year-old claimed the victory with a winning margin of 54 percent on RugbyPass‘ Facebook and Instagram accounts as part of the Straight 8 Fan Vote campaign to determine the best player on the planet in each position.
Vermeulen and Vunipola were left as the last two players standing in the third and final round of the knockout bracket after having fought off the challenges of some big names in the prior two rounds.
After having thrashed Argentine behemoth Javier Ortega Desio with 92 percent of the vote, Vermeulen romped home in similar fashion against South African-born Irishman CJ Stander with more than 75 percent of the public’s backing in the semi-final.
On the flip side of the draw, Vunipola defeated barnstorming Welshman Taulupe Faletau after accruing 75 percent of the vote, before going on to thump another Welshman in Ross Moriarty with well over 80 percent of the fans’ approval.
In the end, though, it was the 54-test Vermeulen – who claimed man-of-the-match honours in last year’s World Cup final – who proved to to be too good for Saracens star Vunipola, with fans inducting the Kubota Spears recruit into the RugbyPass Straight 8 Fan Vote World XV.
He joins an elite group of players already voted into the side, which includes fellow South African and reigning World Rugby player of the year Pieter-Steph du Toit and All Blacks tyrant Ardie Savea in the loose forwards.
Vermeulen and du Toit aren’t the only Springboks in the squad, with wing Cheslin Kolbe and lock Eben Etzebeth also featuring alongside Fijian flyer Semi Radradra, towering Englishman Maro Itoje and Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg.
The sixth instalment of the Straight 8 Fan Vote is due to get underway in the coming days.
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