CAPE TOWN - Stormers coach Robbie Fleck doesn’t see the inclusion of the 19-year-old Juarno Augustus at No 7 for their game against the Sunwolves on Saturday as a big call, but rather an “exciting selection.”
Augustus was named Player of the Tournament at the World Rugby Under-20 Championships in Georgia and now, a few weeks later, he will complete the Stormers’ loose trio along with skipper Siya Kolisi at openside flank and Nizaam Carr at No 8.
Augustus, who featured for the Stormers during the pre-season, comes into the starting XV after both Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Kobus van Dyk picked up knee injuries during the week. Fleck said that the severity of the duo’s injuries still had to be confirmed.
“I don’t think it is a big call to play Juarno at all. I would call it an exciting selection," said Fleck.
“Playing for the Stormers is not completely new to him. He played for us in the pre-season; he got game time in the pre-season friendly against the Lions. We are very comfortable with this selection and he adds further to our loose-forward options going forward, both for the play-offs and beyond that,” Fleck said.
Augustus was of course instrumental in the Junior Boks’ campaign as the hard-running loose forward scored no fewer than seven tries in Chean Roux’s team’s five matches. But it wasn’t a case of him just being at the right place at the right time (obviously scoring that many tries can’t be put down to pure coincidence anyway) - he also made crucial contributions at the breakdowns, while his ball-carrying, his skill set, and his general hard-working style caused all kinds of problems for their junior opposition.
And Fleck said that just like with flyhalf Damian Willemse, who made his starting debut for the Stormers last week, he was excited to see what Augustus will deliver, while he also singled out Augustus’ ball-carrying ability and what he can bring to the blindside position as something that he was particularly excited about.
“He was outstanding for the national under-20 team and as was the case with Damian last week, we are very excited to see how he goes. He did play No 8 at the world tournament, but he played between seven and eight, and he can be very effective when he comes around the corner from blindside flank from a ball-carrying point of view,” he said.
“He brings something different and he might free up the likes of Nizaam and Siya, but he’s got to do the basics first and then the rest will come to him easily.”
Apart from the loose trio, Fleck will have another combination to check out in Damian de Allende and EW Viljoen. The two will start as a pair in midfield for the first time as De Allende makes a timely return to fitness.
Currently, only De Allende, Viljoen and Dan Kriel are fit, while Scottish international Huw Jones, who was expected to be back this week after suffering a hamstring injury during Scotland’s Six Nations campaign, has been pushed out for another week. Springbok centre Juan de Jongh should also be in the mix for the play-offs after sustaining a concussion early in the game against the Cheetahs.
In other changes, SP Marais’ injury sees last week’s vice-captain Dillyn Leyds move to fullback, with Seabelo Senatla taking charge of the left wing with Cheslin Kolbe, who scored a hat-trick in the Stormers’ 40-34 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last week, on the right wing.
Bok lock Eben Etzebeth returns after being rested last week, and hooker Bongi Mbonambi will pack down in the centre of the front row again after coming off the bench last week.
Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Juarno Augustus, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg. Bench: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 JD Schickerling, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Dan Kriel, 23 Bjorn Basson.