CRAIG LEWIS and DYLAN JACK identify which player they’d like to see make their Springbok debut in 2021.
CRAIG LEWIS SAYS APHELELE FASSI
It feels almost wrong that the 23-year-old hasn’t had an opportunity to earn higher honours. Every indication was that Fassi was very much in the national picture at the start of the 2020 Super Rugby season.
However, the pandemic deprived the Springboks of any action last year, and effectively denied him an almost certain Springbok cap. It’s been a painful waiting game to see when the Boks will finally play their first game since the 2019 World Cup, but there will surely be at least a couple warm-up games before the British & Irish Lions series.
Should that series take place in the northern hemisphere, there will be a need to take an extended squad over to the UK, and you can rest assured Fassi will then be in the mix.
After returning from injury towards the end of last year, it did take him some time to rebuild form and fitness but in the Sharks’ preparation series opener it was clear once again that he was in a class of his own.
In the long term, it appears the prodigiously talented youngster is an ideal candidate to take over the No 15 jersey from Willie le Roux, but this year is all about seeing him finally taking his first steps on the international stage.
Although Fassi is undoubtedly capable of also doing a job on the wing if need be, it’s more likely the Bok coaches would prefer to deploy him off the bench in his preferred position at fullback as his Test integration begins.
One way or another, there’s sure to be any enthralled onlookers when Fassi finally dons the green and gold. And that moment will arrive in simply a matter of time.
DYLAN JACK SAYS JASPER WIESE
When Jasper Wiese completed his move from the Cheetahs to the Leicester Tigers, he was still a relatively unknown quantity. He shone for the Cheetahs during Super Rugby Unlocked and started gaining some support for his ball-carrying ability, but the general South African rugby public weren’t exactly mourning his loss when he decided to join the growing exodus of players from Bloemfontein.
However, since making a superb Premiership debut just four days after arriving in Leicester, Wiese has repaid the faith placed in him. In seven appearances, the 25-year-old has made a total of 451m from 105 carries, an average of 4.3m per carry. He has scored three tries and has beaten 30 defenders.
By the end of February, his stats showed him to be among the most effective offensive forwards in England, which includes the likes of Zach Mercer and Sam Simmonds, who have both been touted for England call-ups.
Admittedly, there is still some work to do on his defensive game. He had made a total of 65 tackles, missing seven for a completion rate of 90%.
If Wiese is to be spoken of as a potential successor to Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen, he would certainly need to develop his skills at the breakdown and on defence to make him a more rounded player, especially considering the role Vermeulen plays in the Boks’ defensive system.
However, the potential is there. Even though Wiese is 25, it’s worth remembering that Vermeulen was also a ‘late bloomer’ as he earned his first Test cap only at these of 26.
By the time the next World Cup swings around, Vermeulen will be 37. With effective player management, he could be on the plane to France. However, if the Springbok coaching staff are to start putting in a succession plan for the veteran, then Wiese should be in the conversation. He has earned an opportunity to show what he can do in international rugby.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images