Coach Sean Everitt has described how Aphelele Fassi’s Sharks teammates cheered wildly in the team room after watching him score a try on his first touch in Test rugby on Friday night, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
With the Springboks returning to action after a 20-month period of inactivity, Fassi also announced his long-awaited arrival on the international scene with a memorable performance out on the left wing against Georgia.
The 23-year-old played the full 80 minutes, completing 74 running metres and three clean breaks, while both scoring a try of his own and setting up another with a well-executed chip kick.
Fassi’s high work rate and the ease with which he transitioned into the Springbok set-up, is sure to have particularly pleased the national coaches as they cast an eye ahead to a congested Test calendar in 2021.
It’s evident that the talented youngster is more than capable of settling into international rugby on the wing, while continuing to learn from someone like veteran Willie le Roux, who is the Bok incumbent at fullback – Fassi’s preferred position.
Should the Springboks opt to reintroduce first-choice left wing Makazole Mapimpi to the starting lineup for this Friday’s second warm-up game against Georgia, it will be interesting to see where Fassi could be accommodated, with a shift to 15 very much a possibility if Le Roux is rested.
Everitt, who has worked closely with Fassi during his breakthrough years at the Sharks, said it was such a special moment to see him grab his first opportunity in Springbok colours.
The Sharks are currently based in Johannesburg as they prepare for Wednesday night’s clash with the British & Irish Lions, and said the whole team had been watching closely as the Boks returned to Test action against Georgia.
“I was just so pleased for him [Fassi] that with his first touch of the ball he managed a really good finish to score in the left-hand corner. All his teammates were cheering in the team room as we were watching in the hotel, and it’s just so good for him to get a dream debut like he did.
“Every time he touched the ball something happened. He was good under the high ball as well. So, we’re very happy for him and hopefully he has put his hand up for a place in the Test series later on.”
After last Friday’s clash, Fassi reflected on his fifth-minute try on debut, and again highlighted the influence Mzwandile Stick has on the team by explaining how the assistant coach had bolstered his confidence in the lead-up to the game.
“I saw some space in front of me and the first instinct I had was to back myself and go for the try. Mzwandile gave me the confidence to back myself and finish opportunities that come my way. The first thing I really thought about was just finishing.”