Fullback Aphelele Fassi has been the standout in a star-studded Sharks backline over the first seven rounds of the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Sharks have incorporated their forwards as well as their backs in a gameplan that hinges on offensive defence. Indeed, they may not have enjoyed such success to date if their forwards did not have the necessary skills and decision-making abilities to link with the backs.
More on the forwards later. Let’s talk about how potent the backs have been over the past seven rounds.
The responsibility of the captaincy has brought out the best in Lukhanyo Am. Makazole Mapimpi – one of the world’s best finishers in 2019 – has scored five tries thus far in 2020.
Aphelele Fassi, however, has made the greatest impact for the Sharks. Sean Everitt’s gameplan – not to mention his selection policy – has harnessed the 22-year-old fullback’s natural attacking talents.
Fassi has been especially potent when striking from turnover ball. The South African conference leaders have looked to involve the youngster as much as possible. Only halfbacks Louis Schreuder, Sanele Nohamba and Curwin Bosch have racked up more possession at the Sharks in 2020.
Fassis has made the second-most running metres (619) in the tournament. He is ranked second for tackle busts (22) and fourth for linebreaks (eight). Those stats highlight his strength as well as ability to identify the weak points in an opposition defence. Fassi has scored three tries and made three try-assists to date.
Over the course of the year, it’s been plain to see how much Fassi has grown in other areas, and why he may feature for the Springboks in July – if those Tests against Scotland and Georgia aren’t cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus.
Everitt should be commended for backing Fassi and giving him a chance to develop further. He has been used as one of the Sharks’ chief tactical kickers, and only Bosch has made more kick metres than the fullback (964) at the franchise in 2020.
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