Curwin Bosch and Damian Willemse are among South Africa’s most talented backline players but their desire to play flyhalf could pave the way for the Sharks Aphelele Fassi to ascend to the Springbok setup.
The coaches of the Sharks and Stormers have made it clear that Bosch and Willemse will largely be used as number 10s in Super Rugby.
The Boks are likely to be looking for a successor to Willie le Roux as first-choice fullback. Le Roux is just 30 but is based in Japan and will be 34 by the time of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
The Sharks possess another very exciting rugby talent in Fassi, who can play of the wing or at fullback.
Changes at the Sharks
The Sharks have made changes to the coaching staff and also have a number of player changes ahead of the 2020 season.
Flyhalf Robert du Preez is one of five Sharks to join their Premiership namesake in Sale after the 2019 season which should leave Bosch as the first-choice flyhalf. The Sharks previous coach Robert du Preez senior faced criticism for his decision to use his son ahead of Bosch at number 10. The 22-year-old utility back from PE offers much more on attack than du Preez though there are still some questions about his defence and decision-making under pressure.
Inconsistent selection and injury have prevented Bosch from establishing himself in the Springbok team he still has plenty of time to learn and grow as a player though and should offer SA Rugby plenty of value in the coming years.
The Sharks have recruited Maties and former SA Schools flyhalf Jordan Chait to be understudy to Bosch, but one imagines he will be used sparingly, if at all, in the coming Super Rugby season.
In the fullback position, the Sharks have allowed Rhyno Smith to join the Cheetahs while Courtney Winnaar made just one Currie Cup appearance for the Sharks before being allowed to join the Southern Kings.
Fassi at fullback
With the Sharks well-stocked for wingers sporting the likes of Rugby World Cup winners, Makazole Mapimpi and Sbu Nkosi backed up by Springbok Lwazi Mvovo and former SA under-20 win Kobus van Wyk. Madosh Tambwe has also arrived from the Lions to bolster the ranks of the wide men meaning Fassi’s best chance for game-time is at fullback.
Fullback also represents perhaps the quickest path to the Springbok team, but he will have to outperform some handy players to move himself to the head of the queue. Bulls fullback Warrick Gelant is the man best positioned to lay claim to the Springbok 15 jersey while Stormers utility back Dillyn Leyds is also in the frame.
Willemse is another contender. However, this may put the new Springbok coach at odds with the Stormers setup who are eager to give the player more opportunities at 10. Willemse would be competing with Jean-Luc du Plessis for the pivot spot, offering similar qualities to those Bosch gives the Sharks.
Fassi has the raw talent and should get the opportunities to prove himself in the 2020 Super Rugby season and perhaps earn a Springbok call.