• Player analysis: South Africa’s No 8s

    We take a closer look at how the local No 8s have been performing in Vodacom Super Rugby, according to Advanced Rugby stats.

    Going into the next of Super Rugby, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, on current form, is our pick of the No 8s after strong performances at the start of this season. Notshe produced a strong running performance against the Rebels, while Juarno Augustus and Josh Strauss both had solid defensive showings in conditions that weren’t conducive to running rugby.

    Sikhumbuzo Notshe, through four rounds, has proven to be SA’s most impressive running No 8. Not only does Notshe run the ball most often, but when he does, he is beating defenders with ease. Notshe leads the local No 8’s in broken tackles (10), and Linebreaks (three). Adding to his powerful running displays Notshe is also an adept passer.

    He showcased his silky hands against the Rebels, with a rapid regather of a Fassi grubber, before quickly firing the ball off, giving Mapimpi a clear run in to score, in what may be the try of the last week.

    Notshe, in round four, ran the ball eight times for 42 metres while breaking three tackles, and a making the one linebreak. He upped the ante on defence, making 13 tackles in the Sharks’ winning performance, more than twice the tackles he was averaging per game coming into round 4 (6.66).

    Strauss continued his strong defensive start to the season against the Blues in Pretoria, playing a huge role for his side, both on attack and on defence as he led the Bulls to what was nearly their first win of the season.

    Strauss was a leader for his team, on both sides of the ball, making 13 of his side’s tackles, beating his previous game high of 12 tackles against the Sharks back in round one. Strauss now leads all local No 8s in tackles, with 34 (92% completion).

    Strauss’ effort didn’t end on defence, running the ball five times for 27m. He was his side’s second top ball carrier, in a game where the ball didn’t often spread through the hands. All in all, it was another gutsy performance from the 33 year-old.

    Meanwhile, Augustus ran the least of all the No 8’s in the last round, making 20 metres on his four run attempts. This season, Augustus is the running the least of all No 8’s in South Africa, averaging 4.6 runs per 80 minutes, 1.2 runs less than the next lowest No 8, Len Massyn.

    The youngster, however, has also played the least minutes of the No 8’s, starting in just two games and with one game coming off the bench. Despite notching only 10 runs in his 175 minutes this season, Augustus has broken five tackles, proving how powerful a ball carrier he is, when he does run.

    Any lack of a running game is made up by his massive defensive effort. Augustus made 11 tackles against the Stormers without missing. Although Strauss and Notshe both have more tackles this season, Augustus is averaging 13.3 tackles per 80 minutes of game time, a whole two more tackles than the next best No 8, Josh Strauss (11.3).

    Photo: Masanori Udagawa/Getty Images

    Post by

    Craig Lewis