The 2021 Super Rugby AU season will retain the same format used this year, after Rugby Australia today revealed a draw with ten rounds plus two weeks of finals.
Michael Hooper v Jarrad who? Undoubtedly the Brumbies’ most underrated player, No.7 Jarrad Butler will face the huge task of squaring off against the Wallabies’ captain during Saturday’s Super Rugby semi-final at Allianz Stadium.
Yet the Wellington-born 23-year-old is no stranger to challenges.
Following legend George Smith’s return to Japanese rugby and star flanker David Pocock’s season-ending knee injury in round three, Butler found himself replacing two of Australia’s greatest fetchers.
But the former Queensland Reds’ back-rower has thrived in the position, playing the role of workhorse rather than the ruck-barnacle approach that yielded equal parts pilfers and equal parts accolades for his predecessors.
Fellow Brumbies back-rower Scott Fardy has instead played the role of the side’s breakdown pest, with only Matt Hodgson claiming more pilfers this season, while Butler has been outstanding in defence.
Stats show he’s made more tackles this season (202) than any other player involved in this week’s semi-finals.
His teammate Sam Carter is his nearest rival (168), while third-placed Hooper (164) has played 60 minutes more this year.
Butler made a round-high 19 tackles in last week’s win over the Chiefs – not to mention scoring the match-winning try – to earn man-of-the-match honours despite being just one of four starting Brumbies players who haven’t been selected in a Wallaby squad.
“Massively underrated,” is how Ben Alexander describes his teammate.
“We don’t need him to be Pocock or George Smith and do what they do.
“We just need him to do a role within our squad, not trying to overplay his hand.”
Head coach Stephen Larkham agrees, adding that Butler has only been underrated externally.
“From day one, when he got down here, we identified that he was a very skilful player,” Larkham said.
“He has a very good understanding of the game and we haven’t been surprised at all how well he’s fitted into the team.”