Aphelele Fassi on Springbok debut. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images)

Aphelele Fassi on Springbok debut. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images)

Fassi: Working with coach Stick was a real highlight of 2021!

Newly-named Young Player of the Year, Aphelele Fassi, has credited Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick for aiding his progress.

Aphelele Fassi on Springbok debut. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images)

Aphelele Fassi on Springbok debut. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images)

Fassi made his Springbok debut in 2021 and although he featured in only two Tests – scoring superb tries on both occasions – he underlined his immense potential, which ultimately saw him deservedly clinch the SA Rugby Young Player of the Year award on Thursday.

Having just turned 24 years old, Fassi looks destined for a long and illustrious Springbok career, with the youngster having recently returned to the Sharks after taking numerous lessons on board during an extended period of time spent with the national squad in the second half of 2021.

In a career highlight that won’t be quickly forgotten, it was with the first touch of the ball on his Test debut against Georgia that Fassi produced an unforgettable piece of play as he blitzed down the left-hand touchline – outpacing three defenders along the way – to score in the corner.

“I saw some space in front of me and the first instinct I had was to back myself and go for the try,” Fassi told reporters after that Test. “One of the coaches in Mzwandile Stick gave me the confidence to back myself and finish opportunities that come my way.”


Fassi has now provided further insight into the benefits of working with the Bok assistant coach, who focuses on key aspects such as player work rate and accuracy under the high ball.

“Working with coach Stick has been one of the real highlights for me, he’s so dedicated to what he does,” Fassi reflects. “So I really just tried to follow everything he told me to do. I worked with him when it came to my game under the high ball, and he really gave me lots of confidence in that area of play.

“He also encouraged me to keep building my work rate to get myself into the best possible positions on the field. The message was really to try be the first guy involved in as many facets of play as possible rather than to be left wondering ‘what if I’d done this or what if I’d done that’.”

After being introduced to Test rugby on the wing, Fassi has now returned to the Sharks, where he remains the first-choice fullback in a star-studded backline.

“It’s a special team to be a part of,” Fassi emphasises. “There is so much experience in the squad at the moment, with guys like Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am, Siya Kolisi, Bongi Mbonambi, S’bu Nkosi and so many others. It really makes it easier for the younger guys in the squad, who themselves just bring a lot of energy to the team.

“I’m excited to be back playing rugby with the Sharks in the URC, and really looking forward to what this year has in store. I’m grateful for every opportunity I had with the Springboks in 2021, and now I really just want to perform with consistency every time I take to the field.”


The winners and finalists (where applicable) for 2021 are:

SA Rugby Player of the Year: Siya Kolisi

Finalists: Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Eben Etzebeth, Makazole Mapimpi

SA Rugby Young Player of the Year: Aphelele Fassi (Springboks / Cell C Sharks)

Finalists: Jaden Hendrikse (Springboks / Cell C Sharks), Jordan Hendrikse (Junior Springboks / Emirates Lions), Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls), Evan Roos (DHL Stormers / Western Province)

Springbok Women’s Player of the Year: Lusanda Dumke

Springbok Sevens Player of the Year: Ronald Brown

Finalists: Selvyn Davids, Siviwe Soyizwapi

Junior Springbok Player of the Year: Henco van Wyk

Finalists: Jordan Hendrikse, Jan-Hendrik Wessels

Team of the Year: Springboks

Finalists: Vodacom Bulls, Springbok Sevens

Coach of the Year: Jake White (Vodacom Bulls)

Finalists: Jacques Nienaber (Springboks), Neil Powell (Springbok Sevens)

Carling Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year: Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls)

Finalists: Johan Goosen (Vodacom Bulls), Evan Roos (DHL Western Province)

Carling Currie Cup First Division Player of the Year: Dylan Maart (Boland Kavaliers)

Finalists: Anrich Richter (Valke), Danrich Visagie (Leopards)

Provincial Women’s Player of the Year: Lusanda Dumke (Border Ladies)

Castle Lager Test Try of the Year: Cheslin Kolbe – Springboks v British & Irish Lions (third Test)

Finalists: Cobus Reinach – Springboks vs Georgia; Makazole Mapimpi – Springboks vs British & Irish Lions; Sizophila Solontsi – Springbok Women vs Kenya; Aphelele Fassi – Springboks vs Argentina; Damian de Allende – Springboks vs New Zealand; Malcolm Marx – Springboks vs Wales; Makazole Mapimpi – Springboks vs Scotland; Zintle Mpupha – Springbok Women v Wales; Libbie Janse van Rensburg – Springbok Women v Wales

OUTsurance Referee of the Year: Aimee Barrett-Theron