We take a closer look at how the local fullbacks have been performing in Vodacom Super Rugby, according to Advanced Rugby stats.
In round seven of Super Rugby we saw the Stormers and Lions both making a switch at fullback, selecting Damian Willemse and Tyrone Green, respectively, to start at 15. Neither of these changes lasted long, with injury striking down the Willemse experiment after just 20 minutes, and Tyrone Green switching back to his usual wing spot after 46 minutes.
Aphelele Fassi was our pick for the standout South African fullback in round seven. Fassi was lively against the Stormers, leading all local fullbacks in running stats, clocking up 112 metres on his 11 runs against the Stormers on Saturday – four more runs than he has been averaging this season.
This was the second game that Fassi has ran for more than 100m, and his third such feat this season. Fassi is now second in Super Rugby for run metres, an extraordinary accomplishment for the young man.
Fassi scored his third try of the season in his side’s 24-14 win at Kings Park Stadium, running a beautiful line on to a perfectly timed Curwin Bosch pass to break the Stormers’ line and sprint in 35m for the try. The youngster was excellent in his execution and discipline, neither making a handling error, turnover nor conceding a penalty in his 80 minutes.
Round seven was the third week in a row that we’ve seen a lower defensive effort from Fassi, who since round five has averaged just 1.3 tackles a game, down from a 4.8 average through rounds one to four. Despite recording the single tackle against the Stormers, he still leads all South African fullbacks with 23 tackles this season, seven more than Warrick Gelant and Dillyn Leyds (both on 16).
Gelant had a solid outing in his side’s loss at Suncorp on the weekend. Gelant scored a brilliant try on what was a play that showcased tight chemistry between himself and teammate Rosko Specman.
Gelant was extremely active in his side’s attack, making 31 possessions in round seven, 10 more than second-best Fassi, who had 21. Gelant is now averaging the most possession per 80 minutes of play for a SA fullback in 2020, making 23.8 touches a game, a good way clear of Coetzee who sits second on 18.5 touches.
Gelant had a good day with ball in hand, running for 80m on his six carries, beating one defender. This was the most metres Warrick has run for in a game this season, beating his previous best of 77, recorded just a week prior, in his side’s round-six win over the Highlanders.
Gelant has continued to insert himself into the Bulls attack, passing and kicking at rates far above other local fullbacks. Warrick is passing more than any other fullback in Super Rugby. Gelant recorded 17 passes in round seven, one short of his season high of 18, from round six. For comparison, Leyds had the second-most passes of all South African fullbacks this week (6) and Fassi had the least (2). Gelant also kicked ten times at Suncorp, the most kicks he’s made in a game this season, well above his average of four kicks per game.
Gelant also recorded two linebreak assists against the Red, and now leads all fullbacks in Super Rugby with eight linebreak assists on the season.
Green didn’t get to make much of his move to fullback, eventually moving back to his home spot on the wing after just 46 minutes after Andries Coetzee came on to replace Courtnall Skosan. In the minutes he did play at the back Green was busier than he’s been in other games this season, recording more possessions (15 in round seven – 11 season average) and runs (nine in round seven – seven season average) than he’s averaging this season. Tyrone ran for 61m on his nine runs, but we didn’t see any broken tackles from him in this round, something that’s become a trademark for the hard-running youngster.
Andries Coetzee switched to fullback for the last 36 minutes of the Lions clash with the Blues, during which he recorded only his second and third tackles of the 2020 season. Prior to round seven, Coetzee had made just a single tackle in his entire 320 minutes of game time this season.
Leyds’ time on the wing didn’t last long, switching back to a more familiar fullback role after just 20 minutes. Leyds was starved of possession, making only eight touches, less than half of what he is averaging (17) this season, in a game where his Stormers had just 30% of possession in their 24-14 loss to the Sharks.
Leyds ran for 31m on his four carries, lower than his season averages of 5.4 runs and 54m. Dillyn’s highlight of the game was his try assist that started off from a Juarno Augustus counter-attack and ended up with Leyds breaking the Sharks line and drawing the fullback, before putting Herschel Jantjies over for a try.
Leyds was solid on defence, making all three of his tackle attempts at Kings Park Stadium on Saturday. Leyds did, however, concede three turnovers in what was a rather error-riddled appearance from the man who is usually so secure with ball in hand.
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