Aphelele Fassi’s excellent start to the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby season is illustrated in his dominance of the tournament’s kick return statistics.
Fassi featured in all seven of the Sharks’ fixtures this season, being used primarily at fullback. Only eighthman Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Andre Esterhuizen have seen more game time in the Sharks’ starting lineup.
When one looks deeper into the top kick returners of the season, one can see that very few rivaled Fassi when it came to workrate from the back.
Fassi ran 346 metres from 37 kick returns this Super Rugby season, 92 metres more than any other player running it after gathering a kick. That works out to an average gain of 9.4 metres per kick return – the second highest of any player who has run the ball at least 15 times from a kick.
Only seven players this season managed to make four or more dominant kick returns and Fassi leads the way in this category with a tally of eight dominant returns. The Waratahs’ Kurtley Beale and Stormers’ Dillyn Leyds have each made five dominant carries on kick returns, ranking them joint-second in the category.
These statistics are indicative of the Sharks’ approach this season as coach Sean Everitt has given his players the freedom to express themselves within their structures. This has also been fruitful for the South African conference leaders as they have scored six tries which have started with a kick return – more than any other team this season. In fact, kick returns have factored in for nearly a quarter of the tries they have scored in 2020 – making them the only team o have scored 20% or more of their total tries via this method.
Photo: EPA/GERHARD DURAN