Quietly leaving South Africa at the end of 2020, without registering on any international radar, Jasper Wiese has flipped the script with a Springbok call-up in the year of the British & Irish Lions after bullying men from the back of Leicester’s scrum writes Oliver Keohane.
So, who is Jasper Wiese?
Wiese left school and went straight into the Cheetahs setup, where he remained for six years as a flanker/number eight who was not bad, but also not noticeable in a country with a conveyer belt of loose forwards. Since signing for Leicester Tigers last November though, Wiese has been sensational.
His recent call-up to the Springbok squad came not from any prior national consciousness of his qualities as a player, from youth or domestic leagues. Rather his selection comes from an inability to ignore outstanding overseas consistency, with Rassie Erasmus saying: ‘We just couldn’t ignore the form Jasper is in. He’s just been that outstanding South African player in England, knocking the door down weekly.’
The form he is in reads as follows:
In his 14 Premiership appearances, he’s accumulated 701 running metres, beaten 54 defenders and made 8 line-breaks. He has also been rewarded with three tries. Defensively, Wiese has completed 117 tackles at a 90% success rate. He is big, he is strong, and as Rassie says, his form simply cannot be ignored. Especially now, given the probable loss of Duane Vermeulen for the Lions tour.
At 6ft3 and 110 kilograms, Wiese’s abrasive style of play is perhaps expected, but there have been bigger men capable of much less with ball in hand. Wiese’s mobility adds an extra dynamic to his size and strength, but his success in contact comes down mainly to his attitude towards it. There are few players who run with as much intent and when you couple this intent with the obvious size and power that Wiese packs, you get statistics like “63 meters gained and 4.8 defenders beaten per 80 minutes”. In his 400 minutes of Premiership rugby this season, Wiese has topped every other forward in both those categories so far.
Often South Africa has been afraid to pick the bolter when he’s been the form option, opting instead for tried and tested. It is a promising sign that Jacques and Rassie are confident enough in our safety net of loose-forwards to have backed the beast that is Wiese to come in and play the role of a traditional Springbok number eight, and potentially fill the boots of Duane Vermeulen.