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Australian rugby star Hayne sizzles in 49ers debut

The San Francisco 49ers have watched a wave of star players exit the building this offseason. Can Jarryd Hayne help fill the void?

The former Rugby League star made a lasting impression on Saturday night with his frisky work out of the Niners backfield.

Working as the team's No. 2 running back behind Carlos Hyde, Hayne piled up 63 yards off five carries in a 23-10 preseason loss to the Texans. The Australian's promising night was highlighted by this 53-yard scamper through Houston defenders:

"I saw him hit the hole and just go," said backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert of Hayne's big run, per The Mercury News. "The O-line did a tremendous job getting all the reaches. (Fullback) Bruce (Miller) threw somebody out of the park, opened up a giant hole for Jarryd, (who) made the safety miss in open space and he almost broke it."

Hayne told the newspaper he "felt a huge weight lifted" after playing his first game in an NFL uniform, saying: "I put a lot of pressure on myself. I wanted to go out there and fit in. I didn't want to go out there and look like a rugby player. I wanted to look like an American NFL player and I felt I did that."

Tight end Garrett Celek called Hayne a "beast," adding: "For as much improvement as he's made since (spring workouts), it's incredible. He's going to keep getting better and better."

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick called the 6-foot-2 Hayne's growth "amazing," while coach Jim Tomsula called him a "premier athlete in the world in space."

Also adding a 33-yard punt return, Hayne has a legitimate chance to make a 49ers roster that also includes Hyde, Reggie Bush, Kendall Hunter and rookie Mike Davis in the backfield.

Tomsula acknowledged that Hayne "absolutely has to battle" to make the team, but with another repeat of Friday's production, this Australian-Rugby-League-star-turned-NFL-running-back has a chance to make good on Bush's April prediction.

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