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’Weekend Special’ Aphelele Fassi excited to be back on the rugby field

FILE - Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassi scores a try during a SuperHero Sunday match against the Stormers in Johannesburg. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

FILE - Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassi scores a try during a SuperHero Sunday match against the Stormers in Johannesburg. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Jan 18, 2022

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Durban — You can be certain that there will be no holding back from Aphelele Fassi when he at last gets on to the playing field n Saturday after almost six months of inactivity for a variety of reasons.

Fassi will be in the Sharks team that visits the Lions for a United Rugby Championship fixture and the last time he started a match was for the Springboks when they hosted Argentina in Gqeberha in August.

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After having scored on debut against Georgia in July, he added a thrilling try against the Pumas but then went unused when the Boks went to Australia for the rest of the Rugby Championship.

Many critics felt he should have been given a shot at some point, especially with veteran Willie le Roux struggling for form, and then when Fassi wasn’t used on the end-of-year tour to the UK, there was an outcry.

Fassi was unable to join the Sharks for their debut in the URC, the four-match tour of Ireland and the UK, and then when the Sharks resumed in the URC on home soil, Fassi was ruled out of the match against the Bulls because of Covid protocols.

The week before, he had played off the bench in a friendly against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, but that has been the sum total of rugby action for him for ages.

No wonder the 23-year-old was sizzling excitement when he spoke to the media after a training session at Hollywoodbets Kings Park.

“I have not played in a very long time and there is so much stuff that I learned when I was with the Boks that I want to transfer on to the field,” Fassi said.

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“I’ve listened to the other guys about their experiences of the URC so far and I am just super excited to get out there this weekend and start putting in some good performances.”

Undoubtedly the position of fullback is an area where the Bok coaching staff are going to want to explore their options this year and it is also Fassi’s preferred position after having used as a wing at the Boks.

“Every player has a regular position. And moving from the Boks back into the (Sharks) set-up should not be too big a transition as I have two quality Bok wings alongside me in the back three (Makazole Mapimpi and Sbu Nkosi) to make that job easier,” he said.

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Also, the attacking game the Sharks want to play, allied to the quick game the Lions prefer, means Fassi should get plenty of opportunities to burst into action on Saturday.

“We are expecting a really fast game, the Lions love to play with intensity and tempo and with ball in hand,” he said.

“For some of us this will be the first time playing URC and that is really exciting. It’s been a tough two weeks of training in scorching heat after the time off and we have worked hard on the things we wanted to focus on after taking a good look at how the initial URC games went for us.

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“Playing that first overseas leg was obviously a difficult phase for us, but there were lots of learnings we took from it, and I feel that has improved us. We are looking forward to getting out there and rectifying the mistakes we made in those first games.

@MikeGreenaway67

IOL Sport

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