Gio Aplon believes the pragmatic approach the Springboks adopt against the elite sides shouldn’t preclude him from selection either as a starter or impact player.
Springbok coach Peter de Villiers said last week that Aplon has had his chance to build his cause for inclusion in the match day squad and that he knows what he has in him as a player. Granted a rare start, against Namibia in Auckland, Aplon reminded of his game-breaking ability. While the inferiority of the opposition must be taken into account, it is telling that he outshone the perpetually impotent Bryan Habana against the same opponents.
Whether deployed as a wing or fullback, he has always altered the feel of the Springboks’ back three, giving them an air of unpredictability and a cutting edge. Defensively he has consistently exhibited the ability to subdue physically superior opponents by compensating what he lacks physically with sound technique.
However, it is likely that Aplon will watch from the stands in the quarter-final, stripping the Springboks of a potential match winner. De Villiers clearly has reservations about his aptitude in relation to the pattern they want to employ, but Aplon countered, saying: The Stormers play in a very similar way to what the Springboks do and I’ve done well in that structured environment, so I don’t see any reason why I couldn’t fit in with the pattern here.
‘Some players rely on their running game without paying much attention to the basics and hope to get by that way. I’ve worked very hard on the core skills of the game for a player in the back three – catching, kicking and passing. The flair comes naturally to me, but I’d like to think that I choose my moments to have a go well. It is about decision-making and assessing the situation quickly. If it’s on I’ll back my strength, but if you need me to play differently that isn’t a problem.’
Aplon added that with the [observable] improvement of the elite sides defensively, players with an ‘x-factor’ would become increasingly influential.
‘Defence wins World Cups and you can see that a huge emphasis has been placed on that at this year’s tournament,’ he said. ‘But there will be games where you’ll need something special from someone – creating or scoring out of nothing.
‘I’d love that challenge if it came my way because I believe I have the skills to help my team in a situation like that. It would be easy to get down about my situation, but I keep training hard and when or of I get my chance, like tonight, I know that I have to make the very best of it.’
By Ryan Vrede in Auckland