Bok coach: Specman is a livewire, Fassi comfortable at wing

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber says Rosko Specman, who will make his Test debut on Friday, is a ‘livewire’ who has brought a real energy to the team environment, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

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Specman, Aphelele Fassi and Jasper Wiese are in line to make their Springbok debuts on Friday when the World Cup champions tackle Georgia at Loftus in the team’s first Test since lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in November 2019.

The trio headline a number of interesting selections, with Cobus Reinach slotting in at scrumhalf, while Frans Steyn and Jesse Kriel combine in the midfield.

Up front, Kwagga Smith will start at No 8 as it becomes increasingly evident the Springbok coaches are keen to see him perform in this role. At loosehead prop, Ox Nche will start just his second Test and will want to fire as a potential backup for Steven Kitshoff when the British & Irish Lions Test series gets under way.

Nienaber, who addressed the media on Tuesday, touched specifically on the selection of Specman just days away from his fifteens debut at Test level at the age of 32.

‘Rosko is a livewire, he brings lots of energy, and is someone who is always smiling and joking. And when it comes to the rugby, he is a real professional.

‘It is well documented how successful he was in sevens, and was part of that Olympic bronze-medal winning team. He’s played a lot of tournaments on big stages.

‘On the field he is just so professional, and off the field he is a really good guy to have around who adds a lot of team energy.’

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On the opposite wing to Specman, plenty of rugby supporters will be just as excited to see what Fassi can offer on his Test debut, albeit playing out of his more familiar fullback position.

Nienaber revealed that the positional switch was somewhat necessitated by disruptions to the camp this past weekend due to three players returning positive Covid-19 tests and also impacting those who had come into close contact (Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi).

However, the Bok coach said he was impressed by what he had seen from Fassi when training on the wing.

‘Aphelele came into the mix [when we had to reconsider the squad composition], but he had trained with us in the conditioning weeks on the wing, and we all know he is really talented with an incredible skill set.

‘At franchise level he has obviously played mainly at 15, but he has slotted in at wing beautifully, and will have the guidance of someone like Willie [le Roux] around him.

‘We wanted to give opportunities to guys like Aphelele, Rosko and Jasper, who has also just knocked the door down to earn selection. We’d like to give them a chance in this game to see how they fit into our structures and how we do things.

‘We needed to balance that with getting our rhythm back as quickly as possible and hitting our straps, while giving opportunities to new guys so we can make a proper informed decision when we get to the Lions Tests.’

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Craig Lewis