In just his first full season with Leicester, Jasper Wiese has made a huge impact.
In the Premiership this season alone, compared to all the forwards who have played 400 minutes or more, the fiery No.8 has averaged the following:
- Five defenders beaten per game, more than anyone
- 15.9 races per game, with only Newcastle’s Gary Graham (16.2) above him
- More meters completed (67.9) than anyone
- Almost a clean break per game; only five out of 135 forwards are higher
Wiese, 25, is yet to be part of a South African squad but his performances for Leicester this season have been such that a Springboks debut against the Lions this summer seems like a very real possibility, especially with reports in South Africa claiming No 8 was included in Zoom meetings ahead of the South Africa tour.
Duane Vermeulen, one of modern rugby’s most powerful No.8s, remains in contention for South Africa, but first-class playing time has been scarce for the 34-year-old. The likely selection of Vermeulen could, however, result in an appearance for Wiese, as the incumbent’s understudy. And Wiese’s back colleague at Leicester, compatriot South Africa Hanro Liebenberg, believes the noisy running back has just what it takes.
âIt wouldn’t surprise me at all, Jasper played phenomenally,â Liebenberg said. “I don’t think he had the chance in South Africa to play the way he did and his trip here was one of the best shots for him personally.” The way he’s playing now has certainly raised his hand for selection. I won’t be at all surprised if he’s in the mix for this British and Irish Lions tour. I think they might have some injuries in that back row as well, which opens the door for him a bit. “
While Steve Borthwick, Wiese’s head coach at Leicester, echoed Liebenberg’s general sentiment.
“He’s a great rugby player and a great person on the team,” added Borthwick. âHe has the potential to play international rugby. One thing that’s very clear with Jasper is that he’s ambitious but he’s also working extremely hard to improve his game. We’re talking about a young man here, still in his twenties, who was at the Cheetahs and hadn’t played a lot of rugby there.
âIn his last season there he was a regular starter so for someone who hasn’t played a lot of rugby his game is developing quickly. I feel very lucky and privileged that we have him here. and we want to support its own ambitions.
âAll of the discussions I’ve had with Jasper about his international ambitions are all about playing well for his club. If you play well for your club, it pleads for the national team in the best possible light.
Wiese has played well for his club – and not just in the Premiership. In the second European level, the Challenge Cup, the South African was the preeminent striker of the competition. He’s put in more carries, beat more defenders and offloaded more than any other player this season. He has walked more yards than any other forward and had the third most tackles of any player.