Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Cape Town - Gio Aplon had a positive message for his Stormers team-mates and coaches as he continued his emotional final week with an exit press conference following the team announcement on Wednesday, the supersport.com website reports.
The Springbok has always given the impression of being level headed and not prone to making bold statements or complaining about the way he has been treated by various selection panels down the years. And he was true to form as he looked ahead to his final game in the Stormers jersey against the Cell C Sharks at his beloved Newlands on Saturday.
"I had my fair opportunity to play for the Springboks.
"I played 17 Tests.
"Obviously you would like to play 50 or 100 caps, but there are quality players in South Africa," said 31-year-old Aplon, who will be continuing his career with Grenoble in France after Saturday’s game.
Although he won’t be playing in South Africa, Aplon would love to play for South Africa again and says he is available to play for the Boks "until I can’t run anymore".
However, again, he has a level headed and mature view of it.
"I have made a decision to continue my career in France so while I would love to play for the Boks, it is not something I expect as it is only fair on the players left behind that if they are at roughly the same level as I am, they should play ahead of me.
"I know that is how it works and I accept that," he said.
Aplon had no hesitation in singling out newcomer Cheslin Kolbe, who is very much in the same mould as him in physical stature and playing style, as a future Bok and the star of the future.
He said that Kolbe was the man to bring the much-needed X-factor to the Stormers going forward.
"The way Cheslin came through in his first Currie Cup season I definitely think he is the guy for the future," said Aplon.
"At the age of 20, Cheslin possesses a lot of skills that I didn’t have at his age.
"I had to work hard on my skills and took a long time to develop them.
"It took a period of years.
"Cheslin has those skills already.
"I think the main thing for me is that he gets a fair chance and not judged on his size.
"I hope he gets judged on his rugby abilities because he has great rugby abilities.
"And I think it’s maybe time for us to look away from size and judge players on what they bring on the field.
"I know stats show that size matters and whatever, but if a player brings X-factor, and has something extraordinary about him, which I believe Cheslin has, then he should be given a chance."
Aplon appears to know when it is time to go but adding to his regret at leaving the union he has represented throughout his 10-year career is his belief that the Stormers and WP are on the cusp of an era of success, with the young players coming through and the changes that are starting to happen after Gert Smal’s arrival as Director of Rugby all meeting with his approval.
"Over a period of a few years we had a lot of success with conservative rugby, and that is how a lot of teams play and have enjoyed success.
"But on the day you also need that something extra or special and that surprise element, and I think the team is now moving in the direction where we can play any kind of game on any given day depending on what the requirements of the occasion are," he said.
"You have to know when to run and when to kick.
"It is all about getting balance.
"We do want to play a bit more expansively than we had been doing, and there was a mind shift earlier in the year.
"I think the recent rugby we have played bears that out, and the Stormers will want to take that into next season.
"I think we have a healthy balance now, as you could see in the first half against the Bulls last week.
"We played some extraordinary rugby.
"It was not just about running everything, but kicking it and knowing when to run.
"I think that is what the Newlands crowd also wants to see, so the Stormers future is bright.
"We have guys who must still come back from injury ad a lot of youngsters coming through who’ve had success at Under-21 level.
"We have the depth, ability and personnel to dominate domestic rugby and I believe to go on and dominate Super Rugby.”
According to Aplon, it is X-factor that is required to give a team an edge in a competition final or semi-final, and that was where the Stormers fell short in the three years where they finished in the top two of Super Rugby successively and booked themselves three consecutive home semi-finals.
They lost two of those and lost the only final they played in during that period against the Bulls at Orlando Stadium in 2010.
"We went so far, but maybe we just lacked that little something that would give us the win.
"I think you definitely need a bit of X-factor in semi-final situations."
Saturday's game at Newlands kicks off at 19:10.
15. Jaco Taute, 14. Gio Aplon, 13. Sailosi Tagicakibau, 12. Juan de Jongh, 11. Cheslin Kolbe, 10. Kurt Coleman, 9. Nic Groom, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Schalk Burger (captain), 6. Nizaam Carr, 5. Ruan Botha, 4. Michael Rhodes, 3. Pat Cilliers, 2. Tiaan Liebenberg, 1. Alistair Vermaak
Substitutes: 16. Stephan Coetzee, 17. Sti Sithole, 18. Martin Dreyer, 19. Manuel Carizza, 20. Siya Kolisi, 21. Louis Schreuder, 22. Peter Grant, 23. Seabelo Senatla
15. SP Marais, 14. S’bura Sithole, 13. JP Pietersen, 12. Paul Jordaan, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Francois Steyn, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Stephan Lewies, 4. Anton Bresler, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1. Thomas du Toit
Substitutes: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Etienne Oosthuizen, 20. Jean Deysel, 21. Charl McLeod, 22. Fred Zeilinga, 23. Tonderai Chavhanga