Injury free Fassi attributes form to hard pre-season work

rugby03 April 2024 12:36
By:Gavin Rich
article image
Aphelele Fassie © Gallo Images

Aphelele Fassi says he was “bummed” for about two hours when it was confirmed that he would not be going to last year’s Rugby World Cup with the Springboks, but he adds that was how long it took for him to figure out that he couldn’t really have expected more.

As a member of the national squad for much of the period building up to the World Cup, Fassi would have been one of the players being considered, but when he looks at it unemotionally, he knows that the injuries that have prevented him from getting the consistent game time that helps a player run into form just made it impossible to compete with the fullbacks who did travel to France.

Instead of wallowing in depression, Fassi resolved to do what he felt was necessary to make him the best player he can be - he focused on his health and he also worked hard during the pre-season with Sharks assistant coaches Joey Mongalo and Dave Williams on parts of his game that were considered a weakness.

“It was tough to miss out on RWC selection but I had to face the reality that I hadn’t played a full season and had had the same problem for two or three years,” said Hollywoodbets Sharks fullback Fassi as he spoke about his current form and looked ahead to Sunday’s EPCR Challenge Cup round of 16 clash with Zebre.

“I did not go three or four games without injury, and that leads to a lack of consistency that is bound to impact on your chances of selection. I was bummed when I was left out but it took me two hours to figure out that I couldn’t expect more. The first injury happened playing for SA A in Ireland, where I tore my ATL and that kept me out for 10 weeks, then I played three games and went to Cape Town and broke my fibia bone. I was out for another six weeks so that was 16 weeks in all. I came back and played three games and then the season ended.

“After that I decided to focus a lot as an individual on my recovery, both after training sessions and matches, and concentrating on the right nutrition. I am being careful and I am feeling strong and fresh as a result.

“Being able to have a full pre-season with the coaches and setting my individual goals in terms of my strengths and weaknesses was also a huge help. It was a perfect opportunity to work through those things that needed working on. I spent a lot of time with defence coach Joey Mongalo, working on defence, and for my kicking game I sat with Joey and also with attack coach David Williams.

“My goal was to try to bring in different elements to my game to make me a more all round player. I benefited a lot from the work put in and the influence of those two coaches leading into the season. It has helped me to become strong at both my running and my kicking game.”


The improvements in the 26-year-old Old Dalian’s games were clear for all to see when the Sharks beat Edinburgh in their Vodacom United Rugby Championship round 13 match at Hollywoodbets Kings Park at the weekend. His brilliant solo try where he ran from his own 10 metre line broke a frustrating scoreless deadlock after 20 minutes of domination by his team without reward. He then followed up by playing a creative role in the second Sharks try, and later produced a thrilling 50/22 kick that showcased the other aspect of his game.

Fassi is also being far more physical than he used to be on defence, and is looking more like a potential international fullback as a result.

Not that Fassi is focusing too much on making up for past missed opportunities with the Springboks. Instead he says he is concentrating on just retaining and improving his current consistent form for the benefit of the Sharks.

“Honestly speaking it (Bok selection) isn’t in my head, I haven’t played consistently for two years now so I am just happy to be consistent at the moment,” he says.

“My main focus is on the Sharks and the badge and putting the badge and jersey in a different place. The most important thing is my health, and keeping fit. In the past there has been no consistency because of little or no game time, but this year I have played every game, and that is the difference. In Saturday’s performance I was able to pull out a few tricks that I have and it helped put the team on the front foot every time.”


The team he speaks about is on the front foot after two successive wins, and Fassi says the victories over Edinburgh and Ulster have done wonders for the Sharks’ confidence as they await Zebre.

“The squad is very confident after the two fixtures against Ulster and Edinburgh. We know we are going back into a different competition now and we know how high the stakes are. This is a knock-out game and we are playing against an Italian team that plays with a lot of passion. They will come at us with a lot of physicality. We need to put the forwards into the right places and then once we do that we need to be knocking off the scoring opportunities that will put the team in a winning position.”