Highly regarded youngster Aphelele Fassi is set to make his Vodacom Super Rugby debut when the Sharks face the Sunwolves this Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
With the Sharks opting to travel to Singapore early this week ahead of their season-opener, coach Robert du Preez has shown a willingness to back several youngsters who impressed in the Currie Cup and during the pre-season.
There has been a fair bit of talk around the potential of promising No 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, who captained the Sharks U19 side to the junior championship title last year, while Kerron van Vuuren and Khutha Mchunu – who started the warm-up match against the Lions – have also cracked the nod for the trip to Singapore.
Mchunu featured in three matches during the Sharks’ successful 2018 Currie Cup, but it’s Fassi who really made a name for himself during the domestic competition.
Of course many will remember the moment he reeled in Aphiwe Dyantyi after the Springbok superstar had snatched an intercept, but Fassi had already caught the eye as he racked up three tries from eight appearances in the campaign.
The 21-year-old also produced a composed performance when starting on the wing in the Currie Cup final, and when one looks at the makeup of the Sharks’ touring squad to Singapore, it appears that he could well be set to feature this Saturday.
An injury that Curwin Bosch suffered in a pre-season game last weekend has robbed him of a rare Super Rugby start at flyhalf, while experienced Lwazi Mvovo may be expected to start at fullback. However, it will be interesting to see whether the Sharks coaches are perhaps tempted to use Saturday’s clash as an opportunity to back Fassi at 15.
The two starting positions on the wing will go to S’bu Nkosi and Makazole Mapimpi, but even if Du Preez opts to select Mvovo at fullback, Fassi should at least find a place on the bench.
The talented youngster offers important utility value with his ability to play at fullback or wing. It’s also understood that the Sharks coaches have been very impressed with what they’ve seen from Fassi in a short space of time, but then they have also toured with the versatile Rhyno Smith.
Du Preez said he was very excited by the Sharks’ squad depth and some of the encouraging signs he had seen from youthful newcomers during warm-up games against the Lions and Vodacom Bulls.
‘I’m very pleased with how the pre-season has gone, and I’m expecting big things from the guys. It’s great to have these [young] guys coming through, and by and large we’ve given everyone an opportunity in the pre-season, so there’s great depth in the squad.’
Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix