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Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick: Aphelele Fassi doesn’t have to wait seven years to be ready

FILE - Aphelele Fassi of the Sharks in action during their Preparation Series match against the Bulls at Kings Park in Durban. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

FILE - Aphelele Fassi of the Sharks in action during their Preparation Series match against the Bulls at Kings Park in Durban. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Jun 17, 2021


CAPE TOWN – When Aphelele Fassi does don the Springbok jersey later this year, he will know exactly what to expect.

That was the assurance given by assistant coach Mzwandile Stick on Thursday from the Bok camp in Bloemfontein.

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The 23-year-old Fassi has been mightily impressive at fullback for the Sharks over the last few seasons, and probably would have made his international debut last year if the Boks were not derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic that kept them off the field.

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And while he may not necessarily feature against Georgia and the British and Irish Lions in the opening stages of the Test year, Fassi is likely to get a run in the Rugby Championship against the All Blacks, Wallabies and Los Pumas.

The experienced incumbent Willie le Roux is sure to retain the No 15 jersey he wore in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final against England when the Boks take on Georgia on July 2 and 9, as well as in the three Lions Tests.

But part of the 31-year-old’s role is also to mentor the likes of Fassi and Damian Willemse at fullback.

ALSO READ: No one can argue that Steven Kitshoff is first choice for the Springboks against the Lions

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The Sharks No 15 has tremendous pace when counter-attacking from the back, while he is also able to come into the line in classic fashion, and possesses a big kicking boot as well.

“Where we are currently, you still have guys like Willie le Roux, who has massive experience and who understands what it takes to be at the top level. Youngsters like Aphelele need to feed off Willie’s experience, so that we don’t have to wait for Willie to retire, and then start from scratch when it comes to Aphelele,” Stick said on Thursday.

“What they’ve been doing very well in our camps is that those laaities are asking very good questions of our experienced players. They go to Willie, they interact with them, they train with them.

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“They want to understand, what are these things that the experienced players see in the game? What are the triggers that they are picking up?

“What is the stuff that they also do off the field that helps them to be prepared for the games?

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“I always tell people that Aphelele Fassi doesn’t have to wait for seven years to have the same experience that Willie has. If Willie can help a youngster now, when a laaitie gets an opportunity to play a Test match in two to three months, at least he knows what it takes.

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“We want to build the depth in the squad, and if Jacques wants to pick the youngsters, those youngsters can fit in nicely with the experienced players.”

Stick also expressed his happiness with Willemse’s performances for the Stormers during the Rainbow Cup SA. “Damian is actually in his best, best shape I’ve ever seen – I’ve worked with him since 2017 at the Junior Boks,” the former Blitzbok captain said.

“The space where he’s in currently, if you look at the last few games for the Stormers, when it comes to high balls, showing his X-factor, I think he’s in a good space. I am excited to see what he’s going to bring this season.”

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Meanwhile, Stick stated that Munster duo RG Snyman and Damian de Allende are set to go for a “check-up” next week before they can be cleared to fly to South Africa following the fire-pit incident, where after they will be examined by the Bok medical team ahead of the Georgia Tests.

He added that about 80 percent of the 46-man squad was already in Bloemfontein, with the likes of Faf de Klerk and Du Preez twins Jean-Luc and Dan still playing for Sale Sharks in England, while Cheslin Kolbe and Rynhardt Elstadt are on club duty with Toulouse in France.


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