In the spotlight: Who is Tazz?

Thu, 12 Sep 2013 12:34
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Mthetheleli Fuzani will make his Currie Cup debut for the defending champions on Saturday, but he is no stranger to the Western Province set-up.

Lock Mthetheleli Fuzani will make his Currie Cup debut for the defending champions in Pretoria on Saturday, but he is no stranger to the Western Province set-up.

The 22-year-old forward, affectionately known as Tazz, was a member of the WP Rugby Institute in 2010 - having played for the WP Under-18 Academy team alongside his new Currie Cup teammate Nic Groom in 2008.

Fuzani, however, could easily have been lost to the WP Currie Cup team had it not been for the vigorous Western Province club identification programme, which runs under the watchful eye of Jerome Paarwater.

"Tazz slipped off the radar a bit after an injury-hit year in the Institute [in 2010]," explained Paarwater.

"As a result he wasn't able to make the WP Under-21 team last year, but I advised him to go to UWC, to study and play rugby, and after this year's Varsity Shield Final I brought him to the Vodacom Cup squad and he has not looked back [since]."

Fuzani, whose family lives in Philippi, went on to play six matches in the Vodacom Cup for Western Province, as well as a compulsory friendly against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg in June.

He was then included in the WP Currie Cup training squad (along with eight other club players), and despite hurting his knee at pre-season training, he is now on the verge of taking the next step in his provincial career in one of the bigger games - a North-South Currie Cup Derby in Pretoria.

"You need a guy like Tazz against the Bulls," said Paarwater.

"It's the perfect game for him - he's a hard man who likes the physical side of the game. He's in great shape and he deserves this opportunity."

Speaking further about the WP club identification programme, which deserves credit for yet another 'find', Paarwater added: "When Tazz appeared in my office last year, I told him he had a chance to play Currie Cup rugby - if he worked hard and took his chances.

"His name might not be known to many, but he's been working hard here at WP and credit must go to the coaches Allister [Coetzee], Fleckie [Robbie Fleck] and Matt [Proudfoot], for selecting him now and also to Dobbo [John Dobson] in the Vodacom Cup, for giving him that initial opportunity.

"We've had a good few amateur players who have moved into the professional ranks here at WP and Tazz is yet another example of what can be achieved with a bit of hard work and perseverance."

WP coach Allister Coetzee clearly knows what he has in the rather large shape - at 1.97m and 116kg - of Fuzani, who will be looked upon to front up at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Speaking on Wednesday, after announcing his WP team to take on the Bulls, Coetzee said: "Tazz has played good rugby for us in the Vodacom Cup and he's been training with us over the past few weeks. He's part of our structures and he's really worked hard - this is a great opportunity for us to see what he's made of.

"It's a big challenge for the young man, but it's a challenge that he's looking forward to. He's got a role to play, he's a good rugby player and he brings a lot of physicality to the team - it's the reason he's been selected.

"We have a plan (on) how to utilise Tazz. We know what the Bulls will bring, none other than physicality, and Tazz is there to give us momentum, to stop momentum [amongst the Bulls] and to work hard in the set-piece and I'm looking forward to seeing him do that.

"But, that said, it's not just about Tazz - it's about the whole pack. If he understands where he fits in, we'll be pleased with that… He might not go the entire 80 [minutes], but the challenge is always off the bench, too, to match the Bulls and we need to use our fresh legs to combat them."

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