Premiership stats point the Springboks towards a new bruising No8
Ulster’s Duane Vermeulen and Leicester’s Jasper Wiese are currently the main No8 options in Jacques Nienaber’s Springboks squad heading into the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, but what the credentials of the uncapped Juarno Augustus, who was in flying form in last season’s Gallagher Premiership for Northampton Saints?
After an impressive title-winning season for the Tigers in the Premiership, the 26-year-old Wiese started at No8 in three of the Springboks’ five Tests so far in 2022. Compare that current favouritism to Vermeulen, the 36-year-old who recovered from knee surgery in June to get a start in last weekend’s Rugby Championship versus the All Blacks.
He produced a poor performance and was replaced by Wiese after just 35 minutes at Ellis Park, but Nienaber has since made it clear that Vermeulen is still in his plans for next year’s finals. As for Evan Roos, who was voted player of the season in the Stormers’ inaugural title-winning United Rugby Championship season, he has only featured once so far for the Springboks.
That debut came in the mid-series loss to Wales in Bloemfontein last month and he has now been left out of the tour squad that arrived in Adelaide on Saturday for the two-game series versus the Wallabies.
However, there is another No8 that has seemingly fallen off the Springboks radar and that is former Stormers bruiser Augustus. The 24-year-old produced some eye-catching performances to help Northampton to a top-four Premiership finish in June.
According to statistics assessed on The Analyst, Augustus had a gainline success rate of 75 per cent in the 2021/22 league, the best rate of any forward in the Premiership, Top 14, URC or Super Rugby. He was also the only South African forward in the top five in terms of those stats.
Pierre Bourgarit (Stade Rochelais) was second with 70.3 per cent and Hoskins Sotutu (Blues) third with 69.8 per cent. Jack Innard (Exeter, 66.7 per cent) and So’otala Fa’aso’o (Brive, 66.1 per cent) were in fourth and fifth respectively.
Augustus’ brute strength also helped him to score seven tries and he also featured in the Premiership’s top 15 when it came to defenders beaten with a total of 54. He is still young and if he continues this fine form in the seasons to come, then it surely will be hard for the Springboks coaches to ignore him.
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