VIDEO: Le Roux v Fassi - the master versus the pupil
World Cup-winning coach Jacques Nienaber and Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus often spoke of the value of veteran utility back Willie le Roux to younger players – both on and off the field.
Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White explained it by saying he is like a ‘coach you can put into the game’.
On Saturday – when the Bulls host the Sharks in the first of several big South African derbies – Le Roux, 34, will get a chance to school another talented young player in the opposing team.
Aphelele Fassi, almost 10 years his junior, will be able to see first-hand how the two-times World Cup-winning star operates.
It will be an electrifying showdown between Le Roux, with his experience of 93 Tests, and Fassi capped just three times.
Le Roux is being used as a ‘mentor’ for talented young Bulls backs like Sebastian de Klerk, Stedman Gans, David Kriel, Sergeal Petersen, Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse.
(WATCH Bulls Director of Rugby Jake White reveals the true value of two-time World Cup-winning Springbok utility back Willie le Roux…)
“I can’t believe he gets all the flak he gets,” White told a media briefing after Le Roux’s debut for the Pretoria outfit in their 53-27 demolition of Irish province Connacht last week.
“You saw [last Saturday], it is the first time he is playing for the Bulls and it looks like he has been with us since four years ago, when I started here [in Pretoria].
“He’s got unbelievable time, he is very skilful, very clever and I am really happy he has come to the Bulls.
“You can already see what impact he’s had with guys like Canan [Moodie], Kurt-Lee [Arendse], Sebastian [de Klerk] and Sergeal [Petersen] playing on the wings.
“It is almost like having a coach coaching them while the game is going on.”
White said it is going to be difficult for youngsters to unseat Le Roux from the Bok team.
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“I can’t answer whether he is going to play for the national team, because that’s not my job,” the Bulls boss said, adding: “However, I have no doubt that as long as he plays like he is and he stays healthy, he is going to make very difficult for other players to kick him out.”
Fassi has had some impressive performances in his six URC outings with the Sharks this season, even during the team’s five-match losing streak.
He has made more carry metres than any other player in the URC this season (565) and was directly involved in 10 line breaks, making six himself and assisting a further four, the most of any player.
The 25-year-old said in an interview issued by the official URC media team, that he turned down lucrative offers to leave Durban and resigned with the Sharks.
“The main reason I stay is because I still want to do more for this jersey at the Sharks,” Fassi said.
“Coming into the new season, I needed to focus on getting that consistency in my performance, reviewing where I can improve after each game.”
Having made a try-scoring Springbok Test debut against Georgia in 2021, Fassi has added just two more caps to his collection, and he knows exactly what is required to push for a return to the Springbok fold.
There is no better time for Fassi to show his all-round growth as a player and leader in the backline than on Saturday, when he duels with the veteran Bok, Le Roux.
* Additional reporting by @URCOfficial