CAPE TOWN – Juarno Augustus is “the type of player we need”, says Stormers coach Robbie Fleck.
Augustus has the chance to back up his coach’s bold statement after being handed his first Super Rugby start for tomorrow’s clash against the Jaguares at Newlands.
The exciting No 8 is one of four changes to the team that beat the Sharks a fortnight ago - the Stormers had a bye last week - with prop Steven Kitshoff, hooker Scara Ntubeni and fullback Dillyn Leyds all coming into the run-on line-up.
Jaco Coetzee, Bongi Mbonambi and Damian Willemse drop to the bench, while Ali Vermaak has been ruled out through injury.
But all eyes will be on Augustus. For all Sikhumbuzo Notshe’s silky handling skills and fleet-footed running, the Stormers have longed for a powerful eighthman in the mould of Duane Vermuelen who not only links the forwards and backs, but also crucially gets the team over the advantage line from the base of the scrum.
With the Stormers backs yet to find their mojo in this year’s competition, Augustus’s elevation to the starting line-up could also open up space for the dangerous three-quarters to be unleashed.
“Trokkie (Augustus) at No 8 brings another dynamic to the team” Fleck said. “He is an explosive player and is pretty deadly close to the tryline and around the fringes.
“He is pretty hard on the ball and stops momentum and gives us momentum. He is the type of player we need.”
The Stormers mentor has been particularly impressed with Augustus’s work ethic after the 21-year-old suffered a string of niggling injuries that has curtailed his progression from the junior ranks to senior professional rugby.
“This is the fittest we’ve seen Trokkie because he’s worked hard and he has no more soft tissue injuries such as a lower back problem that plagued him,” Fleck said.
“He was unlucky to suffer an ankle injury with virtually the last move of the game against Boland in our final pre-season warm-up which set him back. But he has also made a major change to his own approach to fitness.
“Now it is about him getting game-time and playing consistently. We are excited about him if we can keep him on the park.”@ZaahierAdams