Aphelele Fassi’s shoulder injury is a big setback for the Sharks‚ but coach Sean Everitt has a more than capable replacement in Manie Libbok to fill the void at fullback.
The Sharks will be up against the Bulls at SuperFan Saturday at Loftus Versfeld in a clash of the known and the unknown.
It will be the first Bulls game under Jake White while the Sharks‚ who have six players out injured‚ will want to pick up where they left off in Super Rugby.
While a squad was announced‚ Everitt said that Sevens legend Werner Kok will be starting at wing and will move to centre as the game progresses. However‚ the Fassi void is one Everitt still feels can be effectively filled.
Fassi’s injury was “devastating” as it came at a time when he was being talked about as being a Springbok later in 2020 and “rightfully so”, Everitt said.
“The form he displayed in Super Rugby made him a strong candidate for the No 15 jersey. These things happen in rugby. Most of these injuries were as a result of bad luck. We’ll miss Fassi‚ but he’ll bounce back.
“Manie is a dangerous X-factor player. He’s really versatile and offers us something in the mould of Curwin Bosch and Fassi. I’m excited to see how he goes on Saturday. He’s been exciting in training.”
With SA Rugby outlining and communicating plans to the franchises in terms of how Saturday’s fixture will be used to combat racial discrimination‚ Everitt said they would be following the mother body’s directive.
“At the Sharks‚ we embrace diversity. At the same time‚ we have to respect players’ cultures and backgrounds‚” Everitt said.
“We get on very well here at the Sharks, and we have a good vibe. SA Rugby has delivered a directive and we’ll follow suit.”
The Sharks were SA’s form team before the season was halted by Covid-19.
Everitt was happy with where the Sharks were at the break‚ but knows the hard work put in at the time will have to be repeated in the coming domestic tournament.
“It’s about preparation. We’ve been out for seven months and we’ve needed to revise and reinstall our game model to make sure the guys know what they’re trying to do‚” he said.
“We’re also taking a few youngsters to measure where they are. We want to see where we are in terms of tempo‚ accuracy and conditioning. We finished well in Super Rugby‚ but that doesn’t mean we know where we are right now.”
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