DURBAN – The indications are that the Sharks’ back three will get plenty of ball when the Bulls visit Jonsson Kings Park on Saturday for a crunch Super Rugby derby, and that is fine by enterprising full-back Aphelele Fassi.
The Sharks’ coaching staff have said they wanted a greater ball-in-hand approach from their players, more like the second-half display against the Rebels which yielded three fine tries, and then there is the expected aerial assault from Bulls kingpin Handre Pollard.
So while the Sharks will not play kamakaze rugby deep in their half, they will have a full go from the back if they sniff open space.
Fassi, Curwin Bosch (when he has replaced Fassi), Sbu Nkosi and the red-hot Makazole Mapimpi are speedsters of note and each one bristles with danger with ball in hand.
“We feed off each other; we communicate well when one of us spots space, and we back each other to have a go,” the 20-year-old said. “The skill set and the work rate is high, so we are confident of having a crack.”
Fassi, who came to the Sharks Academy after winning a bursary as a Dale College player at the Kearsney Easter Festival, has had a meteoric rise to Super Rugby.
Early last year he was a stand-out performer in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge and was rewarded with a place in the Currie Cup-winning team, and outstanding performances there have culminated in him nailing down the No 15 jersey, at the expense of Curwin Bosch.
“It has been an honour to learn from Curwin and Lwazi (Mvovo). They have helped me a lot,” he said. “ It has been a big step up for me from the Currie Cup, so I appreciate all the help I can get.
“I have found playing the New Zealand and Australian teams very different to anything I’ve previously experienced. There are different expectations of you when you play those countries; and the physicality of the SA derbies are a big step up."
Fassi sat out of the Sharks’ game against the Bulls last time around because of a mild concussion sustained the week before against the Stormers, which was a baptism of fire for the youngster.
* Sharks centre Marius Louw has been suspended by a Sanzaar Foul Play Committee for three weeks and joins another banned Sharks centre, Jeremy Ward, on the sidelines.
That is two suspensions for Sharks centres in consecutive games, with Ward having picked up a five-week suspension for a reckless and dangerous tackle in the match against the Bulls in Pretoria and now Louw penalised for a reckless and dangerous tackle on a Rebels player at the weekend.
Louw’s off-the-ball indiscretion resulted in a try by Makazole Mapimpi being disallowed. That would have put them in the hunt for a bonus point try at four tries to the Rebels’ two, with eight minutes to go.
The good news for the Sharks is that their two first choice centres, Andre Esterhuizen and Lukanyo Am, remain intact.@MikeGreenaway67