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Springboks' verdict on their two uncapped wingers facing Georgia

By Liam Heagney

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New Springboks boss Jacques Nienaber is optimistic his rookie Test wingers Rosko Specman and Aphelele Fassi will impress when they make their debuts on Friday night in Pretoria against Georgia. The pair are the only two new caps in the starting XV for South Africa’s first match since their November 2019 World Cup final win, but only one was apparently in the original line-up to face the Georgians.  

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Nienaber explained that it was last Saturday when he and Rassie Erasmus has privately selected the Springboks team but that choice was affected the following day by the virus outbreak in their camp and the necessary close contact measures which opened the door for Fassi, the 23-year-old Sharks back, to earn his first selection along with Specman, the 32-year-old from the Cheetahs. 

Wing Sbu Nkosi, prop Vincent Koch and scrum-half Herschel Jantjies all tested positive with winger Makazole Mapimpi and midfielder Lukhanyo Am identified as close contacts. Explaining the knock-on consequences for the Springboks XV, Nienaber said: “We picked the side but didn’t announce the team on Saturday evening going into Sunday and then we had the Covid issues within our camp. 

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“I don’t want to go into too much detail and into every little specific but we want to be as transparent as possible and the only two guys that really got influenced by that was Mapimpi and Am. We selected the team on Saturday but then the Covid cases came out on Sunday and they were close contacts so they went into isolation and that is how guys like Aphelele Fassi and Jesse Kriel got into the mix. 

“He [Fassi] trained with us in the preparation in the conditioning weeks at wing. He is a very talented player, he has got a massive skill set and I know that he plays for his franchise at 15 predominately but he slotted in at wing beautifully and with the guidance of a guy like Willie (le Roux), Jesse and Lukhanyo there was good guidance so he slotted in nicely. 

“Rosko is a livewire, brings a lot of energy, is a real funny guy off the field, has always got a smile on his face but when it comes down to the rugby side of things he is a full professional. It’s well documented how successful he was while playing sevens, part of the bronze medalist team (at the 2016 Olympics), so he has played a lot of tournaments on the big stage.

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“He is a very professional guy when it comes to on the field but off the field, he is a fun guy and he makes the people laugh and he brings a lot of energy… I’m super excited for the two wings. They have really trained well in the conditioning camps in Bloemfontein and the importance of a guy like Willie and Handre Pollard and then also Jesse, a very vocal guy on the field, it’s going to be massive for them but they bring some X-factor and their own little spice to the game.”

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Springboks' verdict on their two uncapped wingers facing Georgia

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