Player analysis: South Africa’s fullbacks

According to Advanced Rugby stats, we take a closer look at how the local fullbacks have been performing in Vodacom Super Rugby.

In week four of action, it was the Sharks’ Aphelele Fassi who continued his stellar start to the season and was the pick of the South African fullbacks, once again.

Fassi has lit up the competition this season, with his incredible footwork and lightning fast speed. His 372 run metres are second-best for all players after round four. Add in 18 broken tackles (third in the competition), five linebreaks (third) and the fact that Fassi is running 12.82 metres per run, and you can see why many believe he is the form player so far this year.

Fassi took advantage of the perfect running conditions on offer in Ballarat, running the ball more than usual, with nine runs against the Rebels. Fassi led all SA fullbacks across running statistics: Runs (nine), Run Metres (75), and Tackle Busts (four).

Fassi showed the range of his skill set early in the game when he put a lovely grubber kick behind the Rebels defence that led to a wonderful try, finished by Mapimpi, netting Fassi the Try Assist.

Defence is the one area of Fassi’s game that may need some work though. He made only five of 11 tackles attempts against the Rebels. However, despite some defensive lapses, his attacking brilliance continues to excite fans.

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Meanwhile, in a gruelling forward dominated battle, Dillyn Leyds saw a lot less ball than he’s accustomed to, getting hands on the ball only 12 times,six less than his average against the Jaguares.

Despite the lack of touches Leyds saw, he didn’t run the ball any less than usual, choosing to keep the ball in hand rather than pass in rainy conditions. Leyds made five runs for 40 run metres, breaking the one tackle.

Warrick Gelant also didn’t see a lot of ball on Saturday due to atrocious conditions at Loftus Versfeld. Coming into this game Gelant was touching the ball 20 times per game, though he saw it just the 13 times against the Blues. Gelant ran the ball three times for 24 run metres and had the one broken tackle.

Despite the lack of a running game, Gelant, in atrocious conditions, played brilliantly as a distributor. Gelant assisted in two linebreaks and a try, putting Morne Steyn over in the corner just before half-time, getting off a perfectly timed pass under pressure from the rushing Emoni Narawa.

Gelant had the single handling error against the Blues, a considerable improvement on previous games this season, and even more impressive considering the horrible conditions he played under.

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Photo: Steve Haag Sports/Hollywoodbets