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Cobus Wiese © Gallo Images

Stormers flank wants to emulate Juan

He played much of his early career as a lock but Cobus Wiese says he is loving life in the blindside flank role for the DHL Stormers – and if you see which player he regards as his role model you will understand why.

When asked during a teleconference with the Cape media from Sydney who he has modelled his game on, Wiese wasted no time and didn’t even appear to think twice before saying it was Juan Smith, the former Free State Cheetahs No7 who was a pivotal member of the Springbok World Cup winning squad in 2007.

“I have modelled my game on Juan Smith, he was the player I most admired and wanted to be like when he was playing for the Boks,” said Wiese.

“He was always driving himself hard and he never left anything out there. I can relate to that. He came from a smaller union but he made it big time. He had physicality both on defence and attack and an extremely high work rate.”

Those are all attributes that Wiese possesses in plentiful supply. Watching him mix it up with the experienced Jaguares players in the Stormers’ Super Rugby opener this past weekend it was hard to imagine that he is just 20. He made his Stormers debut last season at just 19, and will only turn 21 in June.

There is plenty of potential in Wiese and he has the ability to make it extremely difficult for the Stormers to contemplate moving Pieter-Steph du Toit to the flank later in the season when Eben Etzebeth returns. It is anticipated that another young WP star of the future, JD Schickerling, may have established himself as a top Super Rugby lock by then, hence the potential selection dilemma.

Unlike Schickerling, Wiese did not come through the WP school system. Instead he was schooled in Upington, hence following the same Kalahari upbringing as one of WP finest ever players, the legendary Tiaan Strauss. Wiese was spotted playing for Griquas Country Disctricts Schools at Craven Week and joined the 2016 intake at the Western Province Academy.

That same year he was selected for the South African under-20 side that played in the Junior World Championship in Manchester, with his experience in the three Pool matches there mirroring his ability to play two positions – he was a lock in the first game, came on as a flank replacement in the second and then started as a flank in the other game he played. He played first as a replacement and then as a starting flank in the matches that followed.

“I do enjoy playing on the flank and I think I fit the mould of a big No 7,” says Wiese.

“I think it suits me perfectly and I am helped by the calibre of player around me. They give me confidence to carry the ball. I like being physical and getting stuck in both on defence and attack.”

Although he was careful of not creating the wrong impression, he also made it clear that through time being an enforcer will be part of his role in the team.

“Any player who comes over the ball must know that they are not playing an average Stormers team any more. While we will play to the laws we will let them know that we are there,” said the product of Hoerskool Upington.

Wiese made an excellent debut against the Chiefs at Newlands early last season, and made some telling early contributions in that game, only to be injured before halftime. He got another chance a few weeks later in the first tour match against the Crusaders in Christchurch, but unfortunately he was injured again.

So providing he can remain fit for the duration, the current Stormers tour will offer him his first full opportunity to get the feel of touring New Zealand and Australia. It will be an important further stepping stone in Wiese’s burgeoning young career.

“What I do know from my experience last year is that it is a whole different game when you play the Aussies and Kiwis on their home fields, and we are ready for that. Home ground advantage is a big factor and when you play away you need to prepare yourself accordingly, be ready for the crowd noise and opposition support so that you can keep yourself in the game and not let it put you off.”

Wiese says that Wallaby captain Michael Hooper has been identified as the big Waratahs threat at the breakdowns on Saturday, but he says it would be a mistake to focus too much on one opposition player.

“As a combination I think myself and Siya (Kolisi) and Neemo (Nizaam Carr) bring a good loose-forward balance and we are focussing on what we can do as much as what they can do. We don’t focus on one player specifically. All 15 Waratahs players are potential threats. But yes, Hooper is a big threat at the breakdown and we have identified that.”


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