Sport | Rugby
Ace centre Wandisile Simelane’s burning desire to wear a Springbok jersey hasn’t been switched off by the Covid-19 pandemic.
His ambitions have merely been placed on hold.
Along with Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassi, Simelane was recently unveiled by national director of rugby Rassie Erasmus as one of the players he wanted to test for a South African “A” side provisionally scheduled to compete in July, in a sideline series to the Springboks’ Tests against Scotland, should they go ahead.
The 22-year-old Lions player was a sensation for the SA U-20 side in 2017 and 2018 when he scored eight tries in 10 matches.
Having since been introduced to the senior ranks, Simelane had featured in eight Super Rugby games for the Lions and 15 Currie Cup clashes for the Golden Lions.
Now, he said, he wants more.
“It’s obviously a big goal of mine, like any aspiring young player, to become a Bok, but I also know I need more game time and more experience, which at the moment is not possible (due to the suspension of the season),” said the former Jeppe High School pupil.
Teammates like departed centre Lionel Mapoe and Lions captain Elton Jantjies had played instrumental roles in helping Simelane settle down in the senior game.
“From day one when I walked into the Lions’ Super Rugby group I was made to feel very welcome and at home, and I quickly realised I was part of the family,” he said.
Initially this season, Simelane was overlooked for the Lions’ first few matches, and he was introduced to the side only during their away leg to Australasia.
“At the beginning of the campaign I was simply not selected but it gave me an opportunity to improve my conditioning. The job is never done,” he said.
“And then I returned for the game against the Rebels, where I unfortunately picked up a knee injury and was ruled out for one game against the Blues, which was the last because of the lockdown.”
For now, facing coronavirus restrictions, Simelane is focused on retaining fitness at his family home in Soweto.
“It probably goes without saying that I miss it terribly, being away from the game and the training field and my Lions brothers, but it is what it is and we’ll just have to bear with the current situation which demands social distancing.”
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