Simelane: I’ve grown as a player and human being

Wandisile Simelane says his involvement in the Springbok Showdown earlier this year provided ‘a real taste of what it takes to be a Springbok’, writes DYLAN JACK.

Simelane’s hard work during the lockdown has clearly paid off as he returned to his best form in Super Rugby Unlocked and continued in the Currie Cup.

In his first start of the campaign, against Griquas, Simelane not only scored a fantastic try when he got the ball on the wing, chipped ahead and outsprinted the cover defence, but also made four try assists, becoming just the second South African to achieve the feat after SP Marais in 2017.

He was at it again in the following weekend’s derby against the Bulls, scoring an outrageous counter-attacking try, when he brushed off the tackle attempts of four Bulls defenders to find himself with nothing but the tryline ahead of him.

Despite making just two starts in Super Rugby Unlocked, Simelane made a massive 158m, beat 10 defenders and made seven linebreaks.

In his latest game against the Sharks, he set up the decisive try when he exploited space on the outside and sidestepped Lukhanyo Am before passing on his outside to leave fullback Tiaan Swanepoel with a simple sprint to finish.

As a further mental boost, Simelane got his first taste of a senior international environment when he was called up to the Green squad for the Springbok Showdown in Cape Town in the first week of October.

‘It was unreal,’ Simelane tells SA Rugby magazine. ‘We had an awesome week. I learned a lot. We had proper senior guys, like Frans Steyn, Siya Kolisi, Duane Vermeulen and Elton Jantjies. So we had a lot of senior Springboks who helped us throughout the whole week.

‘You got a real taste of what it takes to be a Springbok and how to prepare for a game for a national team. We used Argentina as a mock team we were playing against and we had to analyse them, which was really interesting. We also won that Saturday, which made it extra special for us.’

Despite going through a tough year in his fledgling professional career, Simelane admits it has given him immense personal growth.

‘I think I have grown as a player and human being. Working on myself, having individual time to work on my rugby skills … as weird as the lockdown was, I feel it was very beneficial for me. I had so much time to work on things and to do what I needed to do to better myself. Surprisingly, the lockdown did help, even though I started getting frustrated towards the end.’

*The full edition of this feature first appeared in the latest SA Rugby magazine, now on sale!

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Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

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Dylan Jack