Western Province coach John Dobson says this season could be the making of No 8 Juarno Augustus, who will start their Currie Cup opener against the Free State Cheetahs. DYAN JACK reports.
Dobson has picked a physical pack in what could be a tight contest in wet conditions, with Augustus starting alongside flanks Kobus van Dyk and Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
Dobson says he is hoping Augustus can finally get through a season of senior rugby after an injury-riddled couple of years for the former World Rugby Junior Player of the Year.
‘Hopefully this year, touch wood, sees the proper unveiling of “Trokkie”. We see how well he did in the U20s. He is such a physical beast and good ball-carrier, we played him as much as we could in France. I hope he steps-up to senior level properly now.
‘If you looked at Billy Vunipola’s GPS stats they would be appalling,’ Dobson said when asked about a comparison between the two. ‘Trokkie wouldn’t be like that, but he still has the same impact in ball-carrying as Billy. He is a big-carrier and hitter.
‘We have been working on his lineout skills because when he was at U20 he wasn’t really a lineout forward, but he is improving there, which is really exciting for his future.’
Notshe’s selection as an openside flanker is also one which raised eyebrows given the 25-year-old’s future is seen at No 8.
‘Notshe, in the national frame, is probably a No 8 but he was so good in the Currie Cup final at No 6 for us and he impressed with the way he worked in Super Rugby,’ Dobson said. ‘This probably isn’t the Notshe of before when he was more of a stepper. His work ethic and physicality are improving all the time so I am excited by the combination.
‘I am impressed by Notshe’s attitude because he has come back from playing at No 8 against England and so enthusiastically happy to wear No 6. These guys are willing to do what is in the best interest of the team.’
In the backline, Ruhan Nel will make his return to the side at outside centre after missing the pre-season tour to France and Dobson says he is looking forward to seeing what the Blitzbok brings this season.
‘This will be his first game of fifteens this year, but he trained so intensely and hard, he was outstanding. I think he has the potential to be the next Springbok in both codes. It is a short competition so we need Ruhan in and running as soon as possible.
‘I am very excited that he is part of this union for the foreseeable future. You can see his talent on and off the field. With sevens guys, there is nowhere to hide and they are so professional in their training so I am hoping it rubs off on us as well.’
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images