Why Gio Aplon should be Bok fullback

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But what about Gio Aplon? He may be 33 already and left the Stormers in 2014, but Aplon can still play a crucial role for the Springboks in the new Coetzee era.

And no, this is not a late April Fool’s joke.

For me, Willie le Roux has blown too hot and cold to wear the Bok No 15 jersey on June 11. While he still produces the odd piece of brilliance for the Sharks, he tries to do too much on his own on attack, which results in him being ineffective.

He appears to have lost that spark that saw him nominated for the World Player of the Year award in 2014, when he used to come into the line in classic fullback style and pop up when you least expect it.

Le Roux’s defence has often been shoddy throughout his career, while he is inconsistent when fielding high balls. Perhaps some time on the sidelines will see him come back rejuvenated with the Sharks in the closing stages of Super Rugby and make another bid for the Bok squad in the Rugby Championship.

Kolbe would’ve been my best bet to run out at Newlands a few weeks ago, but it just looks like he is battling with his confidence at the moment. Still capable of coming up with that match-changing moment, the 22-year-old from Kraaifontein – a cousin of world champion sprinter Wayde van Niekerk – Kolbe appears to have suffered a similar fate in some respects to Le Roux recently.

He is under enormous pressure to produce some magic every time he fields the ball at the back, and the over-reliance on his attacking skills has coincided with a drop in performance by the Stormers. While coach Robbie Fleck should be applauded for trying to make the Cape side adopt a new attacking mindset, it requires the whole backline to play their part – not just on Kolbe to weave his magic.

And that weight on his shoulders is plain to see when Kolbe fields the ball at the back. He seldom counter-attacks any longer, and usually looks to find space with a tactical kick. The Stormers backline also doesn’t bring him into the line from fullback, as the centres normally look for contact instead of creating space for the outside backs.

Those are the fundamentals of fullback play that Aplon has always possessed, and which he could demonstrate to Kolbe and Co by starting against Ireland. Having won 17 Test caps, Aplon played his last international against England in Port Elizabeth in 2012 as a stop-gap measure by Heyneke Meyer due to injuries to Zane Kirchner and Pat Lambie, but hasn’t been used since, ostensibly due to his small frame.

Coetzee opted to play Aplon at right wing for most of his Stormers career – it couldn’t be a size issue as the equally slight Joe Pietersen was largely preferred at No 15 – and that was a grave injustice towards Aplon.

The Bok coach could make it up to Aplon by installing him at fullback in much the same way that he may utilise Ruan Pienaar or Michael Claassens against the Irish.

The lack of a clear favourite at scrumhalf – Faf de Klerk is most people’s choice, but he does still make crucial mistakes, while Rudy Paige hasn’t reached the heights he did last year in Super Rugby – might just see Coetzee bringing in the experience of Pienaar, who also plays his club rugby in Ireland for Ulster, or Claassens (eight Test caps) from the Sharks.

While the 32-year-old Pienaar has seldom convinced in a Bok jersey in an 88-Test career, it won’t be a surprise to see Coetzee opting for a veteran at No 9 when he announces his first national squad at Newlands on Saturday night.

In Aplon’s case, he is also still excelling for Grenoble in France, where he has signed a contract extension until 2018. He could be just what the Boks – and Cheslin Kolbe – need at the moment.

ashfak.mohamed@inl.co.za

@IndyCapeSport - Independent Media

Original source: Why Gio Aplon should be Bok fullback

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