Brumbies young-gun Nick Jooste has been tasked with filling the boots of regular Australian U20s flyhalf Mack Mason, as the team prepare for their final match of the World Rugby U20s Championship against New Zealand.
Mason, who has been ruled out with a fractured hand, has started for the Australians in all four of their matches on tour so far, and played all 320 minutes of Rugby.
Jooste, who first made waves on the Australian Rugby scene playing flyhalf for Perth Spirit in last year’s Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC) at the age of 17, is well equipped to step into the pivotal role.
Head coach Adrian Thompson has confidence in the young play maker.
“It’ll be tough obviously, Mack was man of the match in three of our games, but in saying that Nick has been his back up the whole way through the tournament and he has spent plenty of time in the role at training so we won’t be using the switch as an excuse.
After missing the last two games on tour, Jooste is excited to back in the starting line up.
“I’m feeling really good heading into the game. I can’t wait to get back out on the field,” Jooste said.
“It’s a disappointing situation for Mack, he has been one of our best on tour so I’ve got big shoes to fill, but I’m ready to give it a crack.”
Having featured predominately at inside centre for the Australian U20s so far in 2016, Jooste has credited his teammates with easing him transition into flyhalf this week at training.
“Preparation this week has been good. The players have been getting around me and helping me make the transition into flyhalf.
“The guys who have played in the last two games have helped me learn the new calls and overall have been really helpful.”
For the playing group, they’re aware of the opportunity they have to create history at the U20s level this Saturday, having never beaten or finished higher than New Zealand at the tournament.
“This game is massive for us. Having not made the top four, the next best thing for us is to finish ahead of New Zealand. We’re treating this game as a tournament final.
“The boys know we can beat them after our first win at Bond earlier this year and that’s what we’re aiming for.”
With the Australians making the long trip home after their final game on Saturday, Jooste has thoroughly enjoyed his first U20s tour.
“It’s been an unreal experience hanging out in Manchester with the team. The people at the hotel have been great, making the stay really easy, and there has been some great Rugby played so overall it’s been an awesome trip,” he said.
The Australian U20s vs New Zealand U20s clash kicks off at 1:45am on Sunday at AJ Bell Stadium in Salford. The match will be televised on LIVE on FOX SPORTS.