Make or break for Fatahefi

PUBLISHED: January 29, 2009

This weekend’s friendly game against the Boland Kavaliers at Wellington could be make or break for big Tongan utility back Alipate Fatafehi.

Fatafehi is on trial with the Vodacom Stormers and if he does enough at Boland Stadium on Saturday he might just land himself a contract with the Cape’s Super 14 franchise. He had a run off the substitutes’ bench against Saracens at Newlands last Sunday but didn’t get enough of a chance to show his value.

Coach Rassie Erasmus said the brains trust wants to see more of Fataheti. “No contract has been signed yet. Since he has been in the mix we have been trying to give him as much game time as we can to see if if he can make it. And this weekend he is getting another chance.”

Referring to last weekend, the coach said: “Well, in the 20 minute he didn’t get the ball once. So we decided to get him into the structures. If you think of Sireli (Naqelevuki), in the beginning it is a different culture and it takes some time before you understand everything, especially the way those boys play over there.

“So I would like to give him a fair chance and making sure he knows the defence patterns and how our kicking game work and then decide on him. But there is no worry with that. He doesn’t have to be in the squad that we will be announcing. He can stay here and the moment you pick him you have to register him as part of the squad.”

Turning to team selection, Erasmus said there were a number of reasons why he made wholesale changes to the side that tackled Saracens.

“It is a combination of things. Some guys needs match practice, while some guys are coming back from injuries. A guy like Brian Mujati is coming back from injury. Some guys have injuries – Francois Louw went over his ankle, Schalk Burger’s cut went open on his ankle and we know what kind of a player he is.

“And some guys are just on form and we don’t think they need game time. So out of those 29 guys it is not to say all of the reserves will play.”

Louw, who looked in great early-season form against Saracens, would not be out for too long, added Erasmus. “Nowadays you go for scans and you would be out for three or four weeks. But in his case it is nothing too serious. He should be fit for the Sharks match, but definitely not for this one (Boland).

“Schalk just had a small procedure on his ankle and everything is fixed. So just the cut went open, and we just need to make sure he is 100% before we take a chance with him.

“He actually practiced on Monday and that is were he opened the cut. So we just need to make sure he is fit and that he must be able to play the whole 80 minutes against the Sharks.”

Erasmus also said former Lions prop Bertus Smit has joined the Stormers. He doesn’t have a contract but if he does enough to prove he deserves one, the big front-ranker could earn a contract.