Cape Town – In a surprise move, Sbu Nkosi and Aphelele Fassi have both been released from the Springbok squad ahead of Saturday’s Test against England at Twickenham.
SA Rugby announced late on Wednesday afternoon that the backline duo will return to the Sharks upon arrival in South Africa on Thursday as they are not part of the match-23 against England.
“We completed the bulk of on our on-field preparations on Wednesday, and our only remaining training session is our captains run on Friday, so it made sense to release Sbu and Aphelele to the Sharks,” Bok coach Jacques Nienaber said in a statement on Wednesday.
“With our squad already selected for Saturday’s Test against England and all positions covered in terms of depth within the touring squad should there be any last-minute withdrawals, we thought it would be beneficial for these players to get back into fold with the Sharks who are preparing for their United Rugby Championship match against the Scarlets next weekend (Saturday, November 27 in Durban).”
But it would’ve made more sense for Fassi in particular to be part of the pre-match activities of what is normally a titanic clash against England, and to experience the atmosphere and pressure that the players go through in front of 82 000 spectators.
The 23-year-old is one of the future stars of South African rugby, but hasn’t had much game time in 2021, having featured only against Georgia and Argentina, and can feel frustrated that he hasn’t been given more playing opportunities – especially since an outside centre in Jesse Kriel started at wing against Wales and Scotland, and will wear the No 14 jersey against England as well.
Nkosi is in a similar boat, as he would’ve expected to start all three Tests on tour in the absence of the injured Cheslin Kolbe. Passport problems meant that he was unavailable for the Welsh clash, but he was ignored for the Scotland and England games as well.