Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassie has credited Pat Lambie for his improved kicking game in the early rounds of the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby season, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
As the best-performing side in the competition, the Sharks have accumulated 20 log points having won five of their six games to date. The Durban-based side occupy top spot in both the South African conference standings and the overall table.
Fassi, who was given the No 15 jumper at the beginning of the season, has been particularly good from the back and repaid coach Sean Everitt’s faith in him with a string of superb performances. The player, though, insists a collective effort propelled the Sharks to the top of standings, with forwards and backs contributing in equal measure week after week.
‘Obviously everyone wants to get the right results, but from the coaching staff to the players, we put in hard work in training and have a high work rate in on the field, because we are performance driven; we back each other,’ Fassi said.
‘The one thing that we want to achieve throughout this season, is to get wins at home consistently. Consistency is key and will help to determine whether we get a home quarter-final or not.’
Fassi also believes it would be premature to talk about the Sharks as Super Rugby title contenders, but says there’s enough evidence to suggest the Sharks can push for a place in the playoffs.
‘In Super Rugby, things can change in a quick manner. I think based on the performances we’ve put in so far we should be able to go far in this year’s competition.’
The 22-year-old has held his own against much more experienced and accomplished players. But while it is his attacking skills that have been widely lauded, the player himself is more happy about the rapid development of his kicking game under the tutelage of Lambie, who serves as tactical and technical kicking consultant at the Sharks, and the gains he has made on defence thanks to one-on-one sessions with head coach Everitt.
‘Coming into this campaign, we focused on my kicking and defence. Sean [Everitt], Pat [Lambie] and I have been working at it. Pat has a big influence on my kicking; we’ve worked on a few specific things and I think performance-wise it shows that his input is truly helping and making a difference,’ Fassi raved.
He was more reserved when probed about his attacking prowess, especially during their tour of Australasia where he scored a few tries.
‘I guess at times you’d say it’s work rate and at times it’s just a case of backing yourself, believing in yourself and going all the way.
‘The key is to always be consistent in everything that I do. Obviously, with the help of the coaching staff and my teammates my performances have been top, so I’m happy.’
The Sharks host the second-ranked Stormers at Kings Park in a top-of-the-table encounter on Saturday, and Fassi says they’re expecting it to be one of the toughest matches of the season.
‘South African derbies are always hectic, even on SuperHero Sunday it was hectic,’ he commented. ‘It won’t be easy but the boys are putting in the work at training. We’re definitely looking forward to this one.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images