Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber spoke highly of Aphelele Fassi and credited assistant coach Mzwandile Stick for the work going into levelling up the team’s aerial skills following the win against Argentina.
Despite making a host of changes to their starting lineup from the team that faced the British & Irish Lions a week ago, the Springboks were able to claim a bonus-point victory over Argentina in their Rugby Championship opener in Gqeberha on Saturday evening.
One of the notable areas that the Springboks dominated was the aerial battle, with wings Aphelele Fassi and Sbu Nkosi chasing and gathering the ball excellently throughout the match.
Speaking after the game, Bok coach Nienaber said the credit for his team’s improvement in this department should go to assistant coach Stick.
“I must give Mzwandile Stick the credit,” Nienaber said. “You can ask Siya [Kolisi], he works with the players every single day, massive energy going into that.
“Credit to him, that’s his department and he is running it like a Trojan currently.”
Playing in just his second Test match, Fassi scored his second try in a Bok jersey when he did very watch to hold onto Elton Jantjies’ crossfield kick after initially juggling the ball.
The 22-year-old, who plays his rugby for the Sharks at fullback, seemed to fit in seamlessly at wing and was unlucky to have a second try in the second half ruled out for an earlier infringement.
Explaining the decision to play Fassi on the wing, Nienaber said it came down to allowing the youngster to adapt to the physicality of Test rugby and focus on executing, taking the pressure of decision-making off his shoulders.
“Aphelele is an unbelievably talented player,” Nienaber said. “He is a fullback, but a fullback and wing should have the same skill set. Facing high balls, making decisions, finishing, stuff like that.
“The thing is, it’s similar to a Dan Carter. When Dan Carter got into the All Blacks. he was a flyhalf at his club, but he started at 12, almost taking the decision-making role away from him and he was just executing and learning from the player on his inside.
“Although Aphelele trains at fullback, he is currently playing wing for us, which has a similar skill set to 15. We have just taken the decision-making role a little bit away from him. It’s not that he makes bad decisions, but it’s about getting him into the mix, allowing him to get used to the game, the physicality.
“He is taking it on. I love the attitude that he shows. I believe he will play many Test matches for South Africa at 15. He is a quality player and there is a bright future for him.”
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