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Fassi: Beyond the celebrations and trophies

INTERVIEW: There have been plenty of reasons for Aphelele Onke Okuhle Fassi to celebrate in the last few weeks – including a Challenge Cup winners medal and being named the Sharks’ Player of the Year.


Maybe the body was worse for wear, but the 26-year-old could be forgiven for some additional indulgence.

After a few injury-ravaged years, the three-times capped Springbok finally regained the form that saw him capped for the first time in July 2021.

Having been part of a recent Springbok alignment camp, Fassi’s name has again emerged in the discussions around possible national team selections for the mid-year internationals.

“Hopefully,” was his candid response, when asked by @rugby365com if there’s some Test action in his future.

Like the rest of South Africa, he will wait for the weekend to hear if his name will be part of the Bok squad, to be named for the Test against Wales at Twickenham on June 22.

Should that call-up come, it will be thoroughly deserved by the utility back – managed by Roc Nation Sports International.

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Despite the Sharks having a horrid in the United Rugby Championship – finishing 14th with just four wins from 18 starts – Fassi finished first in the clean breaks and metres gained categories.

His Challenge Cup stats are equally impressive – third in carries and metres made and fourth in offloads.

Despite several close losses early in the season, the Sharks never lost faith and when it became obvious they were not going to make the RC play-offs, they made it a goal to win the Challenge Cup.

“We accepted responsibility for our poor URC performances and made a mental shift to winning the Challenge Cup,” he told @rugby365com.


“It was a difficult stage,” he said, adding: “We were in a very dark place – the team having doubts.

“Once we started having some wins, we saw the light and the belief returned.

“We were honest with each other and kept each other accountable.

“That allowed us to put all our energy into the Challenge Cup.”

Fassi EPCR attack stats

Having gone to England and beat Gloucester on what was effectively their ‘home turf’ in the Final was an “unbelievable and surreal” experience for the Durban-based franchise.

“The guys showed their true character and intent in that first defensive set we had,” he said about an opening 10-minute spell dominated by the Premiership side.

“The boys put their bodies on the line – like Eben [Etzebeth] crawling on his knees to stop a try.

“The win was a reward for the boys for the work they put in through the week and delivering in the game.

“We also went to a ‘darker’ place than they do and just have the mental resilience not to give up.

“We found a way to push through.

“South Africans have that ability to never give up when the going gets tough.”

Fassi URC stats

Turning to his own game – with the Challenge Cup the obvious highlight – he said the best part was being able to play a full season.

“I praise the Lord for that,” he said of his injury-free run this year.

“For two seasons I wasn’t able top complete a campaign,” he told @rugby365com, adding: “You always take time to come back after an injury and playing consistently helps with improving your form.

“It has played a huge role in how I am playing.

“I have been able to develop new skills and your mindset also improved.”

Having signed a contract extension he will remain in Durban for a few more years, he is ready to help the Sharks go to the next level.

“Having won the Challenge Cup, people think we’ve done it all.

“However, I want to do so much more for the Sharks and improve my skill set to be able to play at the highest level.”


Fassi EPCR stats

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