After 14 rounds of the Guinness PRO14 2018/19 season, the Isuzu Southern Kings captain leads the team statistics for most tackles made by a member of the team after having made a mammoth 164 hits – an average of almost 12 tackles per match.
As captain, part of Astle’s philosophy is to lead from the front, and he has done exactly that when it comes to defence. He leads the tackling stats in the Isuzu Southern Kings team and is currently ranked third overall in the championship behind Osprey’s Olly Cracknell (171) and Cardiff Blues’ Olly Robinson (165) – both loose-forwards.
“Yes, it is always nice to appear on the stats, but the most important thing is putting in the graft each and every week to help the team reach our goals together. Making a contribution towards team goals, for me, is much more important that individual milestones,” Astle said about his impressive defensive display so far this season.
“As the old saying goes ‘it is defence that wins matches’ – defence is therefore an import part of the game. It is an area that we work hard on continuously. It is important to defend as a wolf pack and not as individuals, so working together is very important.”
Putting in the big hits every week can take its toll on the body, but the 28-year-old Queenstown-born lock has been absorbing the hits well and taking the necessary precautions to keep the body in good nick.
The former Sharks second-rower, who re-joined the Isuzu Southern Kings at the start of this season from French Pro D-2 side, Mont-de-Marsan, is in awe of the quality of teams and players in the Guinness PRO14 competition.
“After 14 matches one definitely starts feeling it on the body. What is key is that one must then focus on recovery,” said Astle.
“Week in, week out we are competing against very competitive sides, so we have no other choice but to be competitive ourselves.
“The Guinness PRO14 is such a quality competition. Look at the teams that have made it to the quarter-finals of the European Champion – six of the eight teams that remain are Guinness PRO14 sides. Each week we are up against highly skilled international players, so we need to continuously work on our craft.”
Astle is not only one of the top performers on the tackling stats, but has been dominant in the lineouts too. He is lies second on the list of lineout wins (43), sitting behind Toyota Cheetahs’ JP du Preez (67).
Despite these personal feats, Astle still believes he has some work to do in order to reach the levels he believes he can reach.
“I have personally grown immensely as a player since playing in this competition,” he said.
“This is my first Guinness PRO14 season and I have had the opportunity to measure myself against some of the top players in the world. There are definitely things I have found I need to work hard on to improve.”
Astle is now looking forward to leading the Isuzu Southern Kings on their three-week tour of the United Kingdom where they will take on Munster next week (Friday, February 15), Leinster (Friday, February 22) and Cardiff Blues (Saturday, March 2).
The Isuzu Southern Kings touring squad will leave for Ireland on Monday.