Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick says experienced players like Willie le Roux are playing a vital role in blooding potential successors Aphelele Fassi and Yaw Penxe into the squad.
The Springboks are just about halfway done with the second week of their training camp in preparation for the upcoming Test season and Lions series.
As opposed to last week, when numbers were limited to the Japan-based players, this week has been far busier as most of the domestic and European-based squad members have joined in.
When the Bok squad was announced a few weeks ago, plenty of attention was given to the fact that uncapped players Fassi, Penxe and Rosko Specman will be getting their first taste of Test rugby in the series.
All three players have been in fantastic form for their respective clubs and will be expected to take the mantle when the likes of Le Roux and Makazole Mapimpi eventually bow out.
Speaking during an online media conference on Thursday, Bok assistant coach Stick said allowing youthful players such as the Sharks duo time to train with the more experienced Springboks is part of the team’s planning to allow for a seamless succession process.
‘The most important thing, actually, where we are currently, is that we have guys like Willie le Roux. He has massive amounts of experience. He knows what it takes to play at the top level at Test-match level,’ Stick explained.
‘The biggest thing for us was to give opportunities to youngsters like Aphelele. He needs to feed off Willie’s experience. That way, we don’t have to wait for WIllie to retire and start from scratch when it comes to Aphelele.
‘What they have been doing very well in our system currently, in our camps, the laaities [youngsters] are asking really, really good questions of our experienced players. They go to guys like Willie and interact with them, they train with them. They want to learn what triggers the experienced players are picking up, what they do off the field that helps them to be prepared for the game.
‘Aphelele Fassi doesn’t have to wait for seven years to have the same experience that Willie has, if Willie can help a youngster like him now. Then in two to three months, when a youngster gets an opportunity to play at Test-match level, we know that he knows what it takes to be there.
‘You don’t want to give Aphelele Fassi game time at the same time as Rosko Specman or Yaw Penxe. Then you are not helping them, because they will be under massive pressure at Test-match level. You want to make sure that you build their confidence through allowing them to work with experienced players.’
Stick was also asked for an update on another youngster in Damian Willemse, who was part of the squad that won the 2019 World Cup. Most recently, the Stormers have committed to playing Willemse at fullback and Stick was enthusiastic about the 23-year-old.
‘He is in the best shape I have ever seen him in. I have worked with him since the Junior Springboks in 2017. When you look at the last couple of games he has played for the Stormers, when it comes to taking high balls, his confidence and showing his X factor, I think he is in a great space.
‘Bringing him into our system to work him and keep on improving his fundamentals, it’s a massive thing for me as a coach. I am excited to see what he will bring this season.’
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Image